Chemsex means using drugs as part of your sex life. Generally it’s more common among gay and bi men, although chemsex is not the norm for most gay men in Britain. Typically three specific drugs (‘chems’) are involved: Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth), Mephedrone (Mcat, Meth), GHB and GBL (G,Geebs or liquid Ecstasy)
These drugs facilitate sustained arousal and induce feel good emotions and a feeling of instant rapport with sexual partners. Sex that can last for hours, or even days. Some users report using them to manage negative feelings, such as a lack of confidence and self-esteem, or deal with worries about stigma around sexuality and HIV status.
Using illegal substances can have significant negative impacts on both your health and mental health but if you are intent on choosing to take illegal substances then following the advice in this resource may reduce potential harm or a fatality.
Set Group Rules
- Agree in advance, and while sober, what sex you would like and what you don’t want. Ensure everyone is in agreement about what is going to happen and that you will all respect one another’s boundaries.
Be upfront about the type of sex you want to have – including if you want to use condoms. Bring condoms and safer sex materials with you even if you’ve agreed otherwise in case someone changes their mind. If you choose not to use condoms this will put you at risk of catching a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Also, you may be at an increased risk during chemsex, as people on certain drugs may have rougher sex increasing the risk of bleeding and infection. Lastly, try and limit to events where you know people who you can trust.
Avoid mixing chemsex drugs with any other drugs, including alcohol. This includes erectile drugs like Viagra. These, in combination with your chemsex drug of choice, may cause an adverse reaction.
Never mix GHB/GBL with alcohol as the interaction between the two can impact on your body’s central nervous and respiratory system. Where someone has a reaction to GHB/GBL and is unconscious, place them in the recovery position and dial 999 for an Ambulance. The police are not normally called for something like this, because it involves somebody who has been taking substances.
General protective measures
Blood Borne Viruses – If you inject Crystal Meth and Mephedrone there is an increased risk of infections and blood borne viruses like HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. If you do choose to inject, don’t share needles or items for snorting eg. straws and notes
- Consider taking PrEP/PEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) to protect against HIV.
Consider taking PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) to protect against HIV. PrEP is available from your local sexual health clinic. For more information on PrEP from The Eddystone Trust, and to request a call back for a discussion about PrEP from your local clinic, click here: PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) | The Eddystone Trust
If you believe you have exposed yourself to the HIV virus, the most important thing is not to panic. PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) is available from your local sexual health clinic or A & E if it is out of hours. PEP is a 28 day course of medication which stops the virus getting into your system. It needs to be started within 72 hours of the exposure and there is a higher chance of success if started within the first 2 hours since exposure.
You may also find that you become dependent on chemsex drugs. Once you have a dependency and you stop taking drugs, you’ll experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
People who regularly engage in chemsex sometimes find it hard to enjoy sex without drugs. Ensuring positive sexual experiences without drugs is an important part of ensuring a healthy, diverse balance.
Health and mental health
Taking the drugs involved in chemsex can lead to serious short and long term impacts on your health and mental health including chronic depression, anxiety, weight loss, paranoia and psychosis
In any situation where drugs or alcohol are present, it is easy for people to lose the capacity to consent. If someone is asleep, unconscious or so ‘out of it’ they cannot decide for themselves, then they cannot consent.
Consent is never permanent. Someone can change their mind and withdraw their consent at any time. Consent is not just about the law, it is also about experiencing positive sexual experiences for all those involved.
- Use condoms and lube.
- If you are gay, bi, a man or a man who has sex with other men or trans and Non-Binary person and you are in Devon, you can get free condoms and lube sent to your home for free via The Eddystone Trust. For more information click here: Condoms Direct Registration Form | The Eddystone Trust
- Consider other barrier protection like gloves for fisting and dental dams
- If you share toys, make sure you clean these between using on each person
- If you are having sex for long periods of time, this can increase the potential for irritation or tearing on the penis or in the bum which could lead to sexual infections. Ensure that you are using enough lubrication for the sex you are having.
- Get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), if you are changing your partners regularly. This should be every 3-6 months. You can order online tests from Devon Sexual Health, more information can be found here: Devon Sexual Health – providing sexual health services that support healthy relationships and sexual well-being – Devon Sexual Health
- You can also request rapid HIV testing and advice on sexual health from The Eddystone Trust. Visit their website here: The Eddystone Trust | HIV & Sexual Health Services