As far back as 1999, New York Magazine's article 'Nightlife ‘99: Clear And Present Danger' said “GHB first became a fixture at raves and gay “circuit parties” in the early nineties. The FDA declared the drug unsafe and illegal to market in 1990, and several states have banned it because of its use as a date-rape drug.”
And before the word chemsex was coined, 'slamming', PnP, 'parTy', 'HnH', and 'chem friendly' were/ are shorthand for gay men using a new generation of drugs, the slang appearing on hook-up apps inc. Grindr, Recon, Bareback Real Time (BBRT), Gaydar, and Scruff. Chemsex, as it would eventually be called, is not the same as popping a pill, snorting a line, or smoking a joint, instead, it's a specific form of recreational drug use.
What is chemsex
Chemsex is any combination of the following drugs to facilitate (enable) and/ or use during sex:
- Methamphetamine (crystal/ crystal meth/ Tina/ meth)
- Mephedrone (meph/ drone)
- GHB/GBL (G/ Gina)
Sex can sometimes last several days. There is little need for sleep or food. The heightened sexual focus can enable more extreme sex, for longer, with more partners and with less fear of STIs, including HIV and HCV.
Antidote's Real Chemistry workshop manual's simple definition of chemsex says it's "the intentional use of drugs to help enhance and/ or facilitate sex."
The chemsex narrative
Like people everywhere, gay men have been taking drugs for years, and it wasn't so long ago some of us were dropping 'E's. Today it's 'chemsex' and professionals are over it like a rash with opinions, forebodings, perspectives, predictions, and research. While understandable, it wasn't so long ago gay men were under a similar microscope during the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Some argue that while the word chemsex does what it says on the tin (sex on/with chemicals) it is yet another unhelpful label ascribed to gay men. What do you think? What is new, however, is that if and when guys 'crash and burn' using these drugs, the consequences are more damaging, more lasting, and require more complex and comprehensive intervention, recovery, and support.
Words and phrases you may have heard
Unfortunately, these and other terms are often lumped together which is not necessarily helpful in understanding what is happening and why.
- Slamming - another word for injecting and the practice of dissolving crystal meth or mephedrone in water before injecting it into yourself or someone else
- Chems - drugs, typically crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB/ GBL (also known as "G")
- 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 other drugs may be used.
- Tweaker - 'tweaking' means making minute adjustments to something, like using a small screwdriver to repair a radio. Doing this can include a turn to the left, the right, back again, left again ... so it's not a stretch that it's also slang for someone exhibiting repetitive, sometimes compulsive, behaviour. And so not a stretch again that it's used to describe a highly-strung easily distracted individual into chemsex which can also relate to making minute adjustments to a drug dose to get the desired high. Anyway, that's our explanation. Let us know if you have a better one?
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