What is chemsex?
‘Chemsex’ is the term used to describe sexual activity between people who have taken specific drugs (chems) including crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) – these drugs can enable an enhanced sexual experience but they are highly addictive and come with significant health risks.
What are the risks associated with chemsex?
- Physical health: Accidents and injuries, nutritional issues, lungs and heart diseases, dental problems, disrupted sleeping patterns.
- Mental health: High levels of depression, anxiety, or psychotic episodes such as paranoia or hallucinations.
Emotional health: Issues such as isolation, domestic and relationship issues, low self-esteem or inability to focus or make decisions.
- Sexual health: High risks of transmissions and infections of HIV, HEP-C and other Sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, gonorrhoea. Chemsex users are also at risk of poor adherence to HIV medication – potentially jeopardising their Undetectable status.
- Financial issues and unemployment.
- Personal safety: such as overdoses, sexual assault, theft, or self-harm.
- Legal issues – buying, selling, possessing and selling these drugs is illegal.
Tips on how to control your chems use
- Review your bio details on hook-up apps. Be explicit that you’re not interested in chems. Simply putting “No H&H” in your bio, for example, will limit the amount of temptation that comes your way.
- Set limits on your use of hook-up apps. We’re at our most vulnerable when we’re searching for intimacy – particularly when it’s late at night and we’re feeling alone and isolated. If you’ve set yourself a rule that you’re not going to look at hook-up apps after 10 PM, have a plan for other things you can do if you’re awake and can’t sleep. It could be as simple as having some good porn on standby so you can masturbate and get the horniness out of your system.
- Don’t forget that if you think it could be helpful you can disable your phone to block downloading and use of apps or websites with specific content (sexual, gambling, etc) using parental controls. You can find out how to do this by Googling ‘parental control iPhone’ or ‘apps parental control for Android’, or also downloading specific apps for this purpose, and prevent the cycle of deleting and downloading the apps.
- Know your triggers.The biggest risk of a relapse often comes from friends or fuck-buddies that we’ve had good times with in the past. Odds are, you’re going to get an unexpected WhatsApp message asking if you’re up for some fun. Knowing that this trigger is going to present itself, have your coping mechanism ready to go – have a “no thanks” reply saved in your drafts, have someone lined up who you can call, have some porn ready to watch.
- Keep a clear head. We tend to make poor choices when we’ve got a few drinks under our belt. Try to minimise your alcohol intake.
- Keep yourself busy. If we’re feeling isolated and alone, and it feels like there’s nothing to do, then a chemsex session will seem increasingly appealing. Set yourself a list of tasks for the day. It could be as simple as reorganising your sock draw or as complicated as making some fresh pasta. There’s always something to do, if you set your mind to it.
- If you do have a relapse, don’t beat yourself up too much. Slip-ups happen. Activate your support network and learn from it.
If you, or a friend or loved one, is struggling with chems, contact Controlling Chemsex to find out what support is available in your area.