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Chemsex: A growing trend and a dangerous potential for problematic drug use

By Tim Woodley

Chemsex is a growing phenomenon in the UK and is particularly prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community. Chemsex refers to the act of using drugs to enhance sex. A number of substances exist that can have a stimulating effect during intercourse, and it’s sadly the case that UK drug treatment services are now struggling under the growing weight of adults who have fallen into problems as a result of their recreational drug use.

The path to problematic drug use

The context of chemsex makes it very problematic and dangerous where the development of problematic drug use is concerned. One of the goals of chemsex is for the participants to have sex for drastically extended periods of time. For as long as several days, users feel a sense of confidence and invulnerability to harm and risk. This goes hand in hand with reduced inhibition similar to what we feel when we drink alcohol.

This is a dangerous mix that propels many who practice chemsex towards a rapid fall into problematic drug use and, eventually, addiction. The combination of lowered inhibition, peer pressure, availability of chemsex drugs and their addictive nature has led to many adults across the UK quickly finding themselves dependent on chemsex drugs.

The threat of addiction sits alongside the very real danger of bodily harm and transmission of diseases; chemsex tends to involve participants having rougher sex than is usual and for longer periods of time and with lowered inhibition, risking bleeding in the body and the increased likelihood of transmitting diseases through unprotected sex.

What drugs do people use for chemsex? Are they really that harmful?

There are three drugs commonly used for chemsex and yes, they are all potentially harmful and they all have the propensity to lead to problematic use and addiction. They are methamphetamine, GHB or GBL and mephedrone.

Mephedrone: This is a stimulant drug that’s commonly known in street slang as drone, meow meow and meph and can be psychologically addictive. There are a variety of ways a person can take mephedrone including swallowing, smoking, injecting and snorting.

When consumed, mephedrone makes people feel aroused, energised and euphoric. It’s also liable to cause other side-effects during and after use include insomnia, sweating, hallucinations and paranoia.

GBL and GHB: These are sedative substances and can be physically addictive. Known more commonly as G but sometimes as liquid ecstasy, this is an oily substance that is usually mixed in drinks. Similar to mephedrone, it makes people feel happy and euphoric and often less inhibited.

As is often the case with street drugs, GBL and GHB are dangerous for potency reasons. Overdoses can make the user pass out and can, in some cases, be fatal – a serious risk when dosing consistently is difficult and potency levels vary.

Methamphetamine: Known as crank, meth, crystal, crystal meth and more, this is another stimulant drug that’s particularly popular amongst gay and bisexual men and in the wider LGBTQ+ community. Similar to mephedrone, methamphetamine makes the user feel aroused and alert. It also commonly makes you feel paranoid and distressed, with physical symptoms including the raising of your heart rate and blood pressure.

Meth is an extremely physically addictive drug. Studies show it can lead to the development of psychosis, long-term health complications and even brain damage. Overdoses can be fatal.

Chemsex can lead to serious problems. These often include:

  • Paranoia, anxiety, irritability, suicidal ideation and a range of other potentially long-lasting mental health issues
  • The taking over of people’s lives, leading to isolation and depression
  • Chaotic sexual encounters and issues around consent and boundaries when in the throes of passion
  • The development of serious sexual health issues

What can I do if I or a loved one is being harmed by chemsex? What do I do if recreational use has moved into problematic use, or if addiction is occurring?

Chemsex can be is extremely harmful and can be particularly difficult to conquer due to peer pressure and the addictiveness of the drugs involved. If you or a loved one are struggling with problems caused by chemsex, it’s important to educate yourself and have an honest discussion about your concerns.

If you are uninformed about the reality of drug and alcohol use and the substances involved and are seeking general knowledge, please visit our blog section where new articles are posted several times a week. If you’d like information on our affordable and intensive non-residential rehabilitation programme you can find that here. We also provide an online Digital Dayhab programme you can attend from the comfort of your own home.

Lastly, if you’d simply like to talk, we’re right here and happy to do that. If you need us, reach out today on 0208 191 8920 or talk via email using our contact form.