Chemsex means using drugs as part of your sex life. It’s most common among men who have sex with men, but it is also becoming more common among people having heterosexual sex and people identifying as LGBT+.
Understanding chemsex drugs
There are three main drugs used for chemsex. All the drugs involved can be harmful individually and in combination.
Methamphetamine is a stimulant. It's also known as crystal meth, crystal, meth, tina and crank.
People take crystal meth by swallowing, snorting, injecting or smoking it. It makes them feel alert and aroused, but can also make them feel agitated and paranoid.
Methamphetamine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure which can lead to heart problems. There is evidence of long-term mental health problems and brain damage. You can overdose on crystal meth. It's easy to become dependent on it.
Mephedrone is a stimulant too. It's known as meph, drone or meow meow.
People usually take mephedrone by snorting it, but they also swallow, smoke and inject it too. It makes people feel alert, aroused, confident and euphoric. It can make people feel sick, anxious and paranoid too.
Mephedrone can make you vomit or give you a headache. It can cause hallucinations, insomnia, reduced appetite, dizziness and sweating. It's easy to become dependent on it.
GHB and GBL are sedatives. Their full names are gammahydroxybutyrate and gammabutyrolactone, and they're also known as G, gina, geebs and liquid ecstasy.
GHB and GBL are usually an oily liquid that people mix with a drink and swallow. They make people feel euphoric, less inhibited and sometimes sleepy too.
With GHB and GBL it's difficult to know how much of the drug you're taking so it's easy to overdose. The overdose can make you pass out and in some cases it can be fatal.
You can become dependent on GHB/GBL, and you will feel withdrawal symptoms very quickly when you stop taking it. These symptoms can be extremely unpleasant and include confusion, insomnia, hallucinations, psychosis and anxiety.
Withdrawal from GHB/GBL can be dangerous. If you notice withdrawal symptoms, you should visit an A&E straight away.
How to keep yourself and others safe
For some people, the only way to avoid the risks of chemsex is to stop altogether. If this isn’t an option, there are ways you can reduce the risk.
- If you’re taking drugs orally, dissolve them in water or wrap them in paper before swallowing.
- If using hot pipes protect your mouth with a rubber band around the pipe.
- Never share items used for snorting drugs (straws/notes).
- Avoid mixing drugs, including alcohol and especially with mephedrone.
- If you’re using a syringe to take drugs via the anus, dilute the solution with fresh, clean water and use a clean syringe without a needle.
- Avoid injecting drugs, but if you do inject never let anyone else inject you. Never share or reuse needles or other equipment, and use a needle exchange service.
If you’re taking GHB/GBL, follow these steps to prevent yourself taking a dangerous amount:
- Start with a smaller dose of 0.5ml – 1ml. It’s always better to take less than more.
- Always check the dose yourself.
- Use plastic syringes to measure out the dose.
- Wait at least two hours between doses.
- Store GHB/GBL in a container you don’t use for other liquids.
- Always dilute GHB/GBL with water or another non-alcoholic drink.
You should always call 999 if someone becomes ill or you think they are having an overdose. Don’t be scared that you’ll get in trouble. The ambulance will not bring the police except in very particular cases.
Advice and support is always available from your local Change Grow Live service. If you’re struggling with drugs or alcohol, we’re here to help.
Chemsex advice for professionals
If you want advice and guidance around supporting someone with a substance misuse problem, we’re here to help. We’ve put together advice for professionals on the topic of chemsex and how to refer someone to our services.
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