‘Chemsex’ and the Dangers of Drug‐Fuelled Sex

‘Chemsex’ is a graphic and harrowing documentary that reveals the realities of an underground drug-fuelled gay sex phenomenon that is taking the lives of many through drug addiction and HIV. Learn about its dangers. ‘Chemsex’ and the Dangers of Drug‐Fuelled Sex DISCLAIMER: The documentary, ‘Chemsex,’ shows graphic scenes of drug use. It is not recommended that it be watched by those in addiction recovery who may be triggered by these events. Two years ago, we at The Cabin published an article on slamming, otherwise known as ‘chemsex,’ which involves gay men partaking in sexual acts while under the influence of drugs – most commonly (crystal) meth, GHB, GBL and/or mephedrone. The situation has since gotten worse. It is estimated that 1-in-8 gay or bisexual men are living with the HIV virus in London alone, and chemsex is thought to play a major role in these statistics. In a documentary made by VICE, which was released in December 2015, men from the UK share about their harrowing experiences with chemsex while highlighting the incredible dangers and health hazards that accompany this lifestyle.

What is Chemsex?

Chemsex refers to drug-fuelled gay orgies that often last for days at a time. As previously mentioned, the most common drugs consumed at these events are crystal meth, GHB, GBL and mephedrone, as they are said to help ease inhibitions, create an instant connection with sexual partners, and allow for users to remain both aroused and awake for extended periods of time – even days on-end. Unfortunately, many chemsex parties encourage party-goers to leave their condoms at home, and in many cases they will share needles used to inject drugs as well. Unprotected sex and shared needles are quite obviously a breeding ground for diseases including Hepatitis and HIV of which rates are rising rapidly among London’s gay community, especially those involved in chemsex.

The Allure of Chemsex for Gay Men

For gay men using apps such as Grinder and other online sex websites in London and the UK, the ‘Chemsex’ documentary states that it is not long before these men will be invited into the world of chemsex. Despite the inherent risk of contracting a disease, many gay men in London are flocking to chemsex parties. David Stuart, a sexual health worker at 56 Dean St, an outpatient clinic in London that deals with a significant number of patients involved in chemsex and those who have resultantly contracted STDs or HIV, believes that the desire to partake in chemsex parties, and the drugs that are used during them, comes from a search for intimacy by gay men who have grown up in environments where they have had to hide who they are and have found intimacy difficult. “Intimacy is a skill we learn as children in the ideal family unit. A lot of gay men we are seeing in this clinic didn’t experience that. They were performing all the time, being over-straight, overcautious, keeping the secret. That’s the opposite of intimacy. Then suddenly they’re all grown up, in a hyper-sexualised gay world with an app on their phone that helps facilitate very fast sex in a population of people who are more prone to HIV and hepatitis C, and they’re trying to incorporate intimacy into their lives with no frame of reference.” – said David Stuart of 56 Dean St, in an article with The Guardian. Stuart in the article talks further about how particular drugs used during these parties make users feel less alone. These drugs break down their guard and allow them to communicate and behave freely in a way that they have never felt they could do when sober.

The Downside of Chemsex

Those interviewed in the documentary agree that the drugs and the parties are indeed a way to feel freer, and many admit that during these parties they partake in sexual acts that they would normally feel too shy to try when sober. However, many of these sexual acts – including unprotected sex and needle sharing – can lead to dangerous health effects. One man interviewed in the documentary said that health effects are not the only dangers that they need to worry about – that one time he was to meet up with a fellow chemsex indulger and was instead beaten and robbed in the bathroom. However, that did not stop him from finding another chemsex partner online soon after. The problem that many of these men have is that once they partake in this type of drug-fuelled sex, they have a difficult time stopping the drugs and returning to ‘normal’ sex.

Chemsex Addiction

The documentary features many men who are completely aware that they are living a dangerous lifestyle. They even admit that when they come down from the drugs, they hate themselves and the lives they are living, but when the next party comes around they dive right back in regardless of the dangers they are posing to themselves and others. Although not a technical term, nor is it acknowledged by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), chemsex addiction could best be described as a combination of drug addiction, sex addiction and/or mental illness. In the documentary, one of the health workers from 56 Dean St explains that when he has men come to the clinic who are looking to escape the lifestyle, there are several factors that need to be dealt with – a possible (and likely) drug addiction, a possible sex addiction, and underlying mental illness issues that could have caused the man to seek this type of sexual atmosphere. No two clients are the same of course, and each client will need to be treated depending on which of the above illnesses they are dealing with. However, as 56 Dean St is an outpatient clinic, many of their clients find it easy to slip right back into the party zone despite trying desperately to stay away.

Getting Treatment for Addiction

In many cases, the key to getting clean and beginning a life of recovery is getting away from the people and places that trigger addictive behaviour. For example, one man in the chemsex documentary who seeks treatment at the 56 Dean St clinic is doing well for a few weeks before he is invited to a party that he ‘just cannot miss,’ and he slips back into the life of chemsex. For men like this, an inpatient addiction treatment centre that offers a secluded environment with a clinical team that is skilled in treating dual-diagnosis cases would likely be their best bet for long-term recovery If you or someone you know is active in the world of chemsex, or other sexual addiction related behaviour, it is important to speak to them about the dangers involved and get help as soon as possible. Whilst this blog focuses on a recent phenomenon in the gay community, we acknowledge unsafe sexual practices combined with drug use can take place across many, if not all, groups within society. The Cabin respect everyone’s right to engage in consensual sexual practices of their choice. However, we encourage all groups to practice safe sex and be aware of the dangers of addiction.