Chemsex is shorthand for gay men taking drugs during sex, first appearing on apps like Grindr, Bareback Real Time (BBRT), Gaydar, and Scruff (and yes, there are lots of others). However, it's not the same as recreational drug use (eg: popping a pill or smoking a joint), rather it is a specific form of recreational drug use:
"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."
Chemsex: More than just sex and drugs | Adfam | London Friend
The chemsex narrative
Gay men have been taking drugs for years and it wasn't so long ago we were dropping 'E's. Today it's 'chemsex' and professionals are over it like a rash with opinions, forebodings perspectives, predictions, and reports. What is new, however, is that if and when guys eventually crash and burn the consequences are more damaging, more lasting, and require more complex and comprehensive intervention recovery and support. However,
"The needs of men engaged in chemsex are not best served by suggesting chemsex is universal. In fact, suggesting that it is universal runs the risk of giving the impression that it is both inevitable and impossible to escape. Most gay men in Britain, even in its gay centres, are not having chemsex."
Ford Hickson, The Conversation, 21 Jun 2016
The truth is the 'chemsex' narrative is still unfolding, and we have a way to go before we have a more rounded understanding its its true extent and (long term) implications for gay men and our community.
Terms you may have heard
- Slamming - another word for injecting and the practice of dissolving crystal meth or mephedrone in water before injecting it into yourself or someone else
- PnP - shorthand for 'Party and Play' used to arrange 'sex and drugs' hook-ups online where there will be drugs, or you may be expected to bring some
- parTy - using drugs with an emphasis on Tina aka crystal meth (smoked or injected)
- HnH - high and horny
- Chem friendly - any combination of Methamphetamine (crystal/ crystal meth/ Tina/ meth), Mephedrone (meph/ drone) or GHB/ GBL (G, Gina) ... though others drugs may be used.
Unfortunately these and other terms are often lumped together which is not necessarily helpful in understanding what is happening and why.
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