It’s a worldwide phenomenon that more and more men who have sex with men are using drugs during sex – ice, cream, G, K, E, and others. Hooking up is so simple with phone apps, making it easier to instantly score drugs and sex. What do you need to know about “chemsex”?
There are many dangers you need to be aware of, and some tips to keep safe if you are using drugs like this. These drugs can be highly addictive. Guys usually start using for fun, and believe they are using responsibly, saying things like “I only use on weekends” or “I’m in control of how much I use.”
The trouble is, things can get out of control pretty quickly. A once a month habit can escalate to every weekend, then the weekend becomes Friday to Tuesday, and before you know it you could be using every day, or multiple times a day.
This is more likely to happen if you are suffering from depression, anxiety or low self-esteem, as the drugs have a temporary elevating effect. Needless to say it’s hard to keep a full-time job once you’re using that much.
A lot of guys find that after they have been doing chemsex for a while, they can’t have sex without the chems – it just doesn’t seem to work without them. One of the big risks with chemsex is that you may end up getting exposed to a lot of different STIs including HIV. Being on PrEP will most likely protect you against HIV, but there’s still gonorrhoea, syphilis, Chlamydia, herpes and warts to watch out for.
If you’re having sex under the influence of drugs, you’re much less likely to be worried about condom use, and you might forget about asking for PEP in the days afterwards.
The issue of consent is a problem – you can’t consent to having sex with someone if you’re off your face on chemicals, and neither can they. I have seen guys who have been to sex parties and can’t remember what went on, and come in with sometimes quite awful injuries that were most likely sustained during non-consensual sex acts.
After a big weekend of chemsex, withdrawal or “come down” symptoms are common – insomnia, irritability, depression, hallucinations, even seizures can occur. Long-term effects of regular use include depression, weight loss and psychological dependence. Also don’t forget that people do die from taking party drugs – you don’t always know what you’re getting, and some combinations or doses can be lethal.
So how can you protect yourself? Here are some rules that can help:
1. If you’re taking chems, try to be with someone you know.
2. Avoid injecting – it’s the quickest way to get addicted.
3. If you are injecting, don’t share needles, never inject below the waist, never inject alone.
4. Avoid mixing drugs
5. Get onto PrEP.
6. If you’re not on PrEP, ask for PEP within 72 hours if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV.
7. Get tested regularly for STIs.
8. Get immunised against Hepatitis B and HPV.
If you are doing chemsex and you feel out of control, ask for help. Your doctor or counsellor is the best person to help you get out of the cycle and take the chems out of your sex life.