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Sexual health service to hold first ever chemsex first aid class

With help on dealing with a friend's overdose or mistakes when injecting drugs – and how you can set consent boundaries

Sexual health service to hold first ever chemsex first aid class
G'O Clock is a short film that follows a chemsex party | Photo: Mitch Marion

A sexual health service in London is holding a first aid class designed to help people who use drugs for sex – a practice known as chemsex.

56 Dean Street, based in London, will host it’s ‘Chemsex First Aid’ class this week. With support from the British Red Cross, it will be held at the center on Thursday 15 March.

It will teach people what to do when people overdose, make mistakes when injecting and when to call an ambulance.

Otherwise known as getting high and horny or party and play – those who take part in chemsex do so to change the sex they are having with a so-called ‘holy trinity’  of drugs.

These are made up of a mixture of GHB, mephedrone and crystal meth. In some cases, the mostly gay and bi men who use chems, will ‘slam’ or inject these drugs.

Over the last three years, chemsex related sexual assaults have doubled in London.

David Stuart, the chemsex lead at Dean Street is running the session.

‘While chems make us feel good, we need to manage them in a way that keeps us safe. And that requires a specific skill-set,’ he tells Gay Star News. ‘Chemsex environments have a great deal of potential harm. From overdoses to extreme paranoia or accidents resulting from being high, and having poor judgment.’

The class will cover:

  • Overdoses & withdrawal symptoms
  • Panic attacks, psychosis & paranoia
  • Hyperventilation & breathing problems
  • Circulation problems & heart palpitations
  • Low blood sugar/feints/light-headedness
  • Extreme intoxication, plus falls, cuts & bruises
  • Injecting mishaps
  • When (& how) to do CPR/’mouth-to-mouth resuscitation’
  • When to call an ambulance

The class will also include ‘conversations about the importance of shared care while we’re playing.’ But it will also explore how to look out for yourselves and others in chemsex environments – as well as the effects the drugs can have on you.

Then it will include all the basics of First Aid class with a chemsex angle. Something the British Red Cross is supporting in this workshop.

Read: What you need to know about the drugs gay men are using to chill out and have sex

Dealing with consent in party and play environments

The class will also cover an important topic in chemsex environments, consent.

‘Learning how to set boundaries that keep ourselves and others safe, and how to communicate those boundaries to others, kindly, is important,’ Stuart says. “Learning to do this in a way that makes them more likely to be respected, is important.’

The GSN global chemsex survey found that not only has nearly a quarter of people who take part in chemsex, overdosed themselves – nearly a quarter also know someone who has died after chemsex.

And more acutely in London, the number of chemsex-linked sexual assaults is on the rise in London, doubling in three years. A GSN investigation also revealed sex offenders are deliberately targeting vulnerable gay men at chillouts.

The average victim age was 31, with the majority falling in between the 25-34 age bracket. However, they ranged in total from between 16 and 61. These statistics show a more than two-fold rise in just three years.

Read: What you can do if you think your drug use is problematic

Is chemsex a rising trend?

Due to the nature of party and play, it is difficult to track whether chemsex is on the rise. However, rising numbers of incidents and anecdotal evidence from the police and experts who spoke to the GSN chemsex series – suggest it is.

But a series of new studies have released by UK universities in the last months have been trying to understand the culture.

One says London has a more acute rise in chemsex, as gay and bi men use chems to escape alienation.

Dr Jamie Hakim of the University of East Anglia believes the rise of chemsex can be linked to the recession of 2008. He also believes other research overplays the role of apps.

However, it’s not without its critics. Steve Morris, the chemsex-related crime lead with the UK’s prison and probation service says though some of the rises can be explained by economic reasons – he believes the more ‘motivation or causal factors’ are the biggest factors.

Regardless of what is creating the rise, one underlying call from experts across the UK – is more support.

A new study from Manchester Metropolitan University says services need to reflect how some people using drugs for sex. It says some are now ‘routinely injecting drugs.’

Dr Rob Ralphs says the gay and bi men he interviewed for the study say the stigma of chemsex is one reason preventing them from asking for help. Because drug support services have been tiered towards heroin users, the study says they now need to reflect the way drug use has changed in the UK.

How can you take part?

The first session this week is fully booked. Stuart says this first workshop becoming fully booked so quickly is: ‘a signal to me, that gay Londoners do care about being safe, and keeping their partners safe.’

Confirming Dean Street does plan to continue these workshops, and to provide gay and bi Londoners with the knowledge of how to reduce harm – when playing with chems.

Follow 56 Dean Street on social media for information about forthcoming classes.

More from the Gay Star News Chemsex series:

What I learned from my 18 year addiction to chemsex – and why I quit

This is what it’s like to wake up and find your boyfriend dead from a drugs overdose


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