Chemsex is the practice of using certain drugs, generally referred to as ‘chems’, in your sex life. It is most commonly practiced by men who have sex with men.
Key things to know
Some men use chems to help them deal with, or free themselves from, the stigma and self-doubt they feel when having sex.
Guys looking for chemsex often use social media websites or apps to meet other guys. Some guys may be quite open about the fact they are looking for chemsex by using terms like H&H (high and horny), P&P (Party and Play), Chillout, or a capital T (for Tina, crystal meth) in their profile names or messages.
We’re not here to make judgments about your drug or chem use. This section is here to provide basic information on which drugs men take in chemsex, so you can be informed and take care of yourself.
If you are worried about your sexual health or drug use, you can get in touch with us for advice and support.
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Problems with chemsex
Although some men feel comfortable with their use of chems, others find that these drugs cause significant problems. These problems include a negative impact mental health, becoming dependent on the drugs used or feeling unable to have sex sober.
If you have chemsex with multiple partners, you may be at greater risk of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and sexually-transmitted infections. You may also be unable to consent to the sex that is happening or be in control of the situation, depending on the drugs (including alcohol) that you have used.
Some men feel that their involvement with chemsex leads them to become dependent on both the drugs and sexual experience. The pull towards meeting other guys for chemsex can start to control their lives. If you are worried about your drug or alcohol consumption, you can speak to your GP, get in touch with us for advice and support or check out Drink Aware.
Staying safe during chemsex
When using chems it can be hard to remain in control of your sexual health and keep yourself safe.
Here are some tips on what you can do to have consensual and pleasurable sex, with the least harm:
- Consent is important for both you and your sexual partner(s). The foundation of consent is that it is given enthusiastically and willingly, with the explicit understanding that you don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do. Consent can only be given if you are able to do so.
- Use condoms and lube if you are planning on having sex to protect yourself from HIV and STIs. Make sure to bring different sizes and have extra condoms on hand if you plan to have sex with a number of guys in case they have forgotten.
- Be clear about your limits and what you are comfortable with. If your sexual partner or partners are doing something that you are not comfortable with, then say stop.
- If you are having trouble staying aware or remembering to take medication, set an alert on your phone for a check-in during the session.
For more information, visit the Friday/Monday website.
Chemsex and HIV medication
Some drugs used for chemsex can interact with your HIV medication and have severe consequences.
For example, using crystal meth and taking HIV drugs (including PrEP) can lead to fatal levels of crystal meth being stored in your body. This happens because HIV drugs can slow down your metabolism, increasing the risk of an overdose.
Other drugs that are known to interact with HIV medication are cocaine, GHB, MDMA/Ecstasy, mephedrone, ketamine, viagra, benzodiazepines and fentanyl. Read more on chemsex and recreational drug use on the charity NAM’s website.
If you are using chems you can sometimes forget when to take your HIV medication or PrEP. It’s a good idea to set a reminder on your phone or watch.
Remaining in control of chemsex and your relationship with sex and drugs can sometimes be challenging. Below we provide tips on taking control of the chemsex you are having and creating a healthier relationship with chems – whatever that means for you.
Sober sex is sex without the use of chems. Often, going back to sober sex can be a scary thought. If you have been using chems for a while, you might not know where to start.
Sometimes it can be good to think back to a time when you had sex that you enjoyed without chems. Then think about what it was that you liked about it. This can help build a relationship with sex without drugs again.
Making changes to your sex life is often tricky. Try and identify what it is that you want to change. It might be reducing your use of chems, stopping altogether, or not meeting guys specifically for chemsex.
Stopping chems altogether will often mean that you are making a significant change in the way you meet men for sex and how you feel about the sex you are having.
If you want to think about stopping altogether it is worth trying to identify what your triggers might be that ignite the pull towards engaging in chemsex. By its nature, chemsex often makes men crave the experience. This is similar to other addictions and it is worthwhile reaching out for help if you need to.
Some alcohol and drug services have been trained in chemsex so will understand your situation without judgement.
Reducing chemsex is easier to achieve than stopping altogether. This way you can look towards achieving something that might be manageable, whether it’s a break from chemsex, or changing the frequency of chillouts you attend or the number of guys you have sex with.
Drugs commonly used in chemsex
Crystal meth (methamphetamine), or Tina, is a powerful stimulant that can keep you awake for very long periods of time. It can also make you feel very self-confident, very aroused, disinhibited and alert. Some people may also become paranoid and others may become aggressive. Additionally, it can make it difficult to get an erection, which is known as ‘crystal dick.’
Reduced inhibitions while on crystal meth can increase the likelihood of risk-taking and interest in having different types of sex. Crystal meth has a very high risk of psychological and physical dependence, that for many men has led to devastating effects on their lives causing physical and mental health issues.
Crystal meth is a Class A drug. If caught with crystal meth for self-use or intending to supply, you could go to jail or receive an unlimited fine.
Using crystal meth and taking HIV drugs (including PrEP) can have serious consequences. For example, some HIV drugs can lead to fatal levels of crystal meth being stored in your body. This happens because HIV drugs can slow down your metabolism, making it possible to for you to unintentionally overdose. Furthermore, because crystal meth causes you to lose time, you may forget to take your HIV medication on time, as prescribed.
Mephedrone – also known as m-cat, MCAT, meow, meow-meow, and plant food/feeder – is part of the amphetamine family and is a powerful stimulant.
It is commonly used in chemsex and clubbing. It often comes in white powder or as a mustard/custard coloured cream.
People using mephedrone can expect to have feelings of euphoria, alertness, and affection towards others. You may find yourself talking a lot, becoming very confident and developing increased assuredness in the sex you are having. Mephedrone can also make you sensitive to touch and very sexually aroused. When you are high you may also feel anxious or on edge. It can make you sweat or give you heart palpitations to the extent where it feels like your heart is jumping out of your chest.
Effects of mephedrone include interest in sex that you would not normally have when sober or making you go further than you normally would, especially when engaging in kink.
The affect that mephedrone has on those who take HIV medication, and PrEP, is still under research. This means you should be cautious if you use mephedrone while taking HIV medication.
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), sometimes referred to as GBL (gamma butyrolactone), is a sedative drug and a form of industrial solvent. It is often referred to as G or Gina and is commonly used in chemsex.
GBL comes as a clear liquid which has a chemical taste and smell. GHB, however, is either a salty liquid or a powder that is added to liquid, such as a soft drink (never alcohol). Inside the body GBL becomes GHB.
After taking GHB the high can last for about two hours, increasing the desire for sex and reducing inhibitions. Some think that the effects are similar to alcohol. Other effects of GHB include euphoria, relaxation and tiredness.
Some of the adverse side effects from GHB can include (but are not limited to) dizziness, vomiting, weakness, confusion, drowsiness, loss of consciousness and in some cases, even death. For many years, it was claimed that people could not become dependent on G. It has now been shown however that people who are regularly using the drug can develop a dependence on it and can experience withdrawal symptoms such as confusion, shaking, epileptic seizure and coma.
Overdosing on GHB is easily done and can be fatal. The dose needs to be precise. GHB is currently a Class C drug. It is illegal to supply or possess it. The maximum penalty for possession is 2 years in prison plus a fine.
Ecstasy is the tablet form of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), a loose white powder, and is branded with logos such as Mitsubishi, Superman, doves, smiley faces or Rolex. Ecstasy increases your perception of colours and music, making it the most commonly used drug in the club scene, music and festival circuit. It is also known as ‘pills’, ‘sweeties’, ‘eccies’, ‘disco biscuits’, ‘molly’ and ‘E’.
Ecstasy has mild hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like qualities. It is favoured by clubbers and men who have sex with men due to the intense feelings of love, happiness and sexual desire it creates for those around you. It can also make you feel uninhibited.
The effects begin after 30-60 minutes of taking it and last for 6-8 hours, although it may make you lose track of time. You can develop a tolerance to ecstasy with prolonged use over time so the dosage is often increased to achieve the same effect.
Ecstasy can increase your body temperature and heartbeat and, it can give rise to paranoia, dehydration and even depression. Feeling very tired and low after taking ecstasy is very common. This is known as a ‘comedown’, which can last up to three or four days and can result in sleep problems.
It is illegal to possess or supply, as it is a Class A drug. The maximum penalty for possession is 7 years in prison plus a fine. For supply, it is life in prison and a fine.
Cocaine is a stimulant that makes you feel good by stimulating the ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain, like dopamine. Cocaine can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.
Though not specifically a chemsex drug, cocaine is commonly used by men socially and when having sex. Cocaine usually comes as a powder, as crack (small rock formations), or as freebase (crystallised powder). It is also known as coke, Charlie or blow.
The effects of cocaine, like other stimulants can make you feel alert, happy, excited, wide awake, confident, self-assertive and very horny. Cocaine can make you feel more confident when flirting with other men and even lead to you having sex with people you wouldn’t normally have sex with.
Cocaine can increase your risk of cardiovascular complications. If you have problems with your heart or have high blood pressure, it is best to avoid cocaine.
Cocaine is a Class A drug. If caught in possession of it you can receive a 7-year prison sentence. If you supply, you could get life in prison. In both cases, the fine could be unlimited.
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