“Chemsex” is the term for the use of drugs to intensify sex. It is often referred to as “chems sex” or “party and play” (PnP).
What Is Chemsex?
You might engage in chemsex to enhance your experience, lower inhibitions, or increase your ability to engage in sexual activity for longer.
Often multiple partners are involved with chemsex and sessions can last for hours and sometimes even days. While previously associated with men having sex with men, chemsex is becoming increasingly popular amongst heterosexuals, the LGBTQ+ community, and the clubbing scene
What Is Chemsex Addiction?
Chemsex addiction describes a need to use drugs during sex. If you are addicted to chemsex, it is unlikely you will want to have sex without using drugs. You might refer to yourself as a drug addict who enjoys sex or a sex addict who enjoys drugs. The medical community uses the term “chemsex addiction” for anyone who engages in sexual behaviour using drugs and does not feel in control of their need to do so.
Shame and fear of judgement mean many people who want to overcome chemsex addiction do not receive the correct treatment in the first instance. If you seek treatment only for drug addiction, this only addresses half of the issue, which often leads to relapse as soon as you return to an active sex life.
If you are concerned about chemsex addiction, contact us on 0800 170 1222 for non-judgemental and confidential advice.
The Effects of Chemsex
Chemsex creates intense feelings of euphoria and pleasure during sex and reduces inhibitions, making sex more exciting. Engaging in chemsex will not always have negative consequences, although taking illegal drugs does carry its own risks. The effect of chemsex will largely depend on the drugs you use, who you have sex with, and if you have unprotected sex.
Using drugs and drinking alcohol during sex often causes impaired decision-making and results in unprotected sex. You may not remember what you do during a chemsex encounter, especially if you are having sex with multiple people. Over time participating in chemsex can also lead to a desire for more extreme forms of sex and mixing the drugs you take to intensify the experience.
Drugs Used in Chemsex
Chemsex describes the use of any drug or alcohol to increase sexual pleasure. Because the specific drugs involved produce a range of mood-altering effects, they are usually highly addictive. The three most common drugs associated with chemsex are:
- Methamphetamine. A synthetic stimulant that causes an overwhelming high along with heightened sexual arousal, lowered inhibitions, feelings of euphoria, confidence, and extreme energy. Street names include crystal meth, glass, ice, meth, chalk, tina, or crank. Methamphetamine often comes in whitish crystals or shards. Accidental overdose can result in stroke, coma, and death.
- Mephedrone. Another synthetic stimulant, mephedrone makes users feel confident, talkative, and euphoric. Some users will temporarily feel strong affection for those around them, which is why it is such a popular drug among people who engage in chemsex. Street names include bounce, bubble, drone, miow, M-Cat, or meow meow. Mephedrone often comes as granules or a fine white or yellowish powder. Accidental overdose can result in heart attack, stroke, and death.
- Gamma-hydroxybutyrate GHB and Gamma-butyrolactone GBL. These sedatives make you feel relaxed, aroused, uninhibited, and lacking in awareness and full understanding of what is going on. Street names include G, gina, geebs, or liquid ecstasy. GHB and GBL often come in liquid or powder form. Accidental overdose can result in suffering respiratory arrest, coma, or death.
The Dangers of Chemsex
Chemsex practices can have a devastating impact on mental and physical health. This is because during chemsex — especially when having sex with multiple partners — it is highly likely you will participate in sexual behaviour you would not normally consider without the influence of drugs.
Chemsex often involves mixing different drugs and alcohol, significantly increasing the risk of overdose and death. The combination of drugs and sex can put excessive strain on the heart and lead to heart attack or heart failure.
Other risks to consider when participating in chemsex include:
- Contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- The risk of being subjected to or committing acts of violent sex, violence, and rape
- The danger of overdose or an adverse reaction to the drugs
- Not being able to form healthy and intimate relationships with others
Staying Safe during Chemsex
Until you feel able to seek treatment for chemsex addiction, there are things you can do to try to make chemsex safer.
Finding a partner you can go to chemsex parties with is not going to guarantee you won’t be assaulted or raped, but it is still a good idea.
PrEP — If you are not going to have safe sex (which, let’s be real, you’re probably not!), it is worth seriously considering pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This is a medicine taken in the form of pills daily or shots (injections) every eight weeks. Both reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by around 99%. But PrEP does not protect against other STDs, so if you have chemsex, you should always get tested regularly.
PEP — If you are not taking PrEp or have not been taking it for 14 days before chemsex, take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within three days of chemsex with strangers to reduce the possibility of contracting HIV. Always make sure you also get tested for STDs when you finish taking PEP.
Overdose during Chemsex
If you think you have overdosed on any drugs during chemsex, you should seek medical assistance immediately. The symptoms of overdose may not be obvious at first, especially if your judgement is impaired due to being intoxicated.
Treatment for a drug overdose varies depending on the drug. If you know what drugs you will take before engaging in chemsex, it is a good idea to write them down on a piece of paper and keep it in your clothing.
Similarly, if you’re with someone you suspect is experiencing an overdose of chemsex drugs, you should call the emergency services and ensure that their airways remain clear and vital signs are stable.
Chemsex Addiction Treatment
Chemsex addiction is categorised as an addiction to taking illegal drugs when having sex that can quickly progress and take over your life. If you find you are constantly thinking about your next chemsex encounter or how soon you can have chemsex, then you are unlikely to be able to overcome chemsex addiction on your own.
Treatment for chemsex addiction in a residential rehab centre typically involves a medically supervised detox to eliminate any remaining toxins from the body. During a medical detox, a doctor is on hand to prescribe the appropriate medication to help alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. Once you complete your detox and are considered well enough, you will participate in therapy sessions to help treat the behavioural aspect of drug and sex addiction.
Chemsex addiction treatment can also be provided in an outpatient clinic. However, many addicts find it harder, as they have to control the urge to engage in chemsex when they are alone.
Where Can I Get Treatment for Chemsex Addiction?
There are various types of treatment available, and the one you choose will ultimately depend on your circumstances. Due to the complexity of chemsex addiction, the most effective treatment is widely considered to be an inpatient rehab facility. This is because there is no temptation to engage in chemsex while in a residential addiction treatment programme.
Chemsex is still a relatively new phenomenon, meaning treatment is still a developing area. When seeking treatment, you must be honest and not just seek addiction treatment for the drugs you take during chemsex. It is important to explain you are seeking help for chemsex addiction and find a rehab facility that understands how to provide the most effective treatment.
At Step by Step Recovery, we offer free advice on treating chemsex addiction. We exist to provide non-judgemental support to help individuals beat addiction permanently. Please complete our online assessment form or call our understanding team on 0800 170 1222 for free, confidential advice about addiction treatment in London or at our residential rehab in Essex, to help you or a loved one.
During chemsex, you are more likely to have unprotected sex or be sexually assaulted, increasing the risk of HIV and other STDs. Drugs taken during Chemsex also increase your risk of overdose and death.
Chemsex often begins in the club scene and is just viewed as a fun and experimental experience. However, as is the case with any reward-seeking behaviour, there is always a possibility of addiction. People don’t engage in chemsex to develop an addiction, but for many people, the guarantee of intense sexual pleasure becomes all too appealing.
Using illicit substances such as GHB and methamphetamine only intensifies the experience. Eventually, these drugs are used more frequently and in larger quantities, increasing the risk of physical and psychological addiction too. When addiction sets in, there is no longer a choice about engaging in chemsex; it becomes a physical need rather than a desire.
Yes. GHB is an extremely dangerous party drug, often mixed with other substances such as methamphetamines, alcohol, and mephedrone during chemsex. When GHB is combined with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, the risk of overdose increases significantly. Chemsex drugs will often cause unconsciousness and coma.
Yes, you will likely experience withdrawal because the drugs taken during chemsex can cause withdrawal symptoms. When combined with the sexual aspect of chemsex addiction, you may also experience anxiety, panic attacks, and mood swings.
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Page revised in March 2023, by Danielle Byatt, a Level 4 addictions counselling, Level 5 in Leadership & Management, BA applied social work. and Treatment Director at Step by Step Recovery.
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