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Chemsex: more than just sex and drugs

Information and advice for families, partners & friends

This resource provides helpful information for the families, friends and LGBT partners of people engaged in chemsex.

Supporting a loved one whose chemsex involvement you are concerned about can be difficult and may put a lot of practical, financial and emotional pressures on family members, friends and partners. This booklet will help you with how to support yourself and your loved one and provides practical and emotional advice and information on services that are available. The resource is aimed both at people who are familiar with chemsex as well as those to whom it is a new concept.

Chemsex is the term used to describe sexual activity between gay and bisexual men under the influence of specific drugs, usually methamphetamine, mephedrone and GHB/GBL, to enhance and stimulate the experience. Sometimes the drugs are injected, which is known as ‘slamming’. It often takes place with multiple sexual partners and sessions of long duration, sometimes over several days. Those that engage in chemsex often report unprotected sex and other risky behaviours.

Some men report getting involved in chemsex because they are lonely or bored. Engaging in chemsex can fulfil desires for connection and excitement, whilst removing barriers to pleasure and intimacy and enabling men to feel sexually free. Men have reported that drugs and alcohol in a sexual setting facilitate relaxation, raise self-confidence, alleviate social unease and fears about body image, age and HIV status. It is known that people also engage in chemsex to cope with long-standing issues such as stigma, homophobia and past trauma such as sexual abuse. Some men report enjoying chemsex as part of their lifestyle and that it does not have a negative impact on their relationships. It can be experienced as a positive aspect of gay identity. However, engaging in chemsex is risky and, for many men, it can become problematic.