Known as ‘slamming’, men in London’s gay scene are turning to meth as their new ‘party drug’. But the side effects are grim; rising rates of HIV, HepC and meth addiction have officials calling it a public health epidemic.
A new trend has shown up in London’s gay scene known as ‘slamming’ or ‘sex chem’. This trend involves doing hits of meth via injection during gay male sex parties that can often last for days on end. The idea is that the meth lowers inhibitions while increasing libido – aimed to make a more ‘fun’ party. What’s actually happening – is the spread of HIV and Hep C due to the sharing of needles and unprotected sex – and an increase of meth addiction in London’s gay population.
Antidote, a drug and alcohol project which works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in London told Channel 4 News that in 2006, just 5 of the 249 people (2%) who used the company’s services reported meth as their number one problem. In 2010, 187 of 553 people (34%) who used their services listed meth as their main problem with another 78 service users listing meth in conjunction with their number one problem.
In similar clinics around London, where Antidote staff also work, the number of people who inject (as opposed to taking the drugs by other methods) rose from 30% in 2011 to 70% in 2012. This is a major reason for the large increase in HIV and HepC around London which some officials are calling a public health epidemic. As well, methamphetamines are highly addictive – adding another angle to the epidemic.
One man spoke to The Independent about his drug use in these scenes, saying, “Sometimes, I was having the best time of my life, for a day or so, but it always ended up being really freaky, paranoid or twisted … I’m OK now, but I still struggle to have normal sex without [crystal meth],”
According to David Stuart, a man who works in one of the London clinics, the heart of the problem is “issues around self-esteem, intimacy, sexual identity and internalised homophobia.” Which, to some extent, extends to the entire LGBT community. A recent study done at the University College London revealed that non-heterosexual people had a 10% rate of alcohol dependence, compared to 5% in heterosexual people.
Lead researcher Dr. Apu Chakraborty believes that discrimination and in turn – lower self-esteem – may be largely to blame for the higher risk of drug or alcohol abuse and addiction. Another survey done in 2012 showed that more than one third (33%) of LGBT people took at least one illegal drug in the past month, compared to only 5% of their heterosexual counterparts.
According to several experts, because the LGBT community has been faced with discrimination and bullying, whether as an entire group or on the individual level, this type of negative enforcement can lead to anxiety, depression, and other stress-related mental health problems that can in turn lead to drug and alcohol abuse as a way to escape. In the case of slamming, it can be used as an escape – for those who are shy or inhibited in their sexuality – it is an easy way to escape and be ‘free’. But meth in the long-run, will make people anything but free.
The LGBT community has long been stereotyped for their activity in the ‘party drug’ scene, but with this new trend, the stakes are being raised even higher. While no drug is safe to use, meth is an exceptionally addictive substance that can lead very quickly into addiction and eventually death.
If you or someone you know is ‘experimenting’ with meth, it’s important to speak to a professional to find out exactly how it will impact your or their lives, and how to get help. Getting help before the problem gets out of control is incredibly important.