Almost a quarter of people who engage in chemsex know someone who died after a party and play scenario.
‘Chemsex’ is using drugs for sex. And growing numbers of gay and bi men are getting ‘high and horny’.
Gay Star News and social app Blued surveyed 1,117 people in the first global survey into chemsex.
Guys experimenting with chemsex across the world told us:
- Almost 1 in 4 (23%) who party and play know someone who died after a chillout.
- Nearly two thirds (60%) experience anxiety or depression as a result of having chemsex.
- 1 in 10 reports being sexually assaulted in a chemsex environment.
- 1 in 10 has gone to Accident and Emergency, an Emergency Room or needed urgent care because of the chems they’ve taken.
- 23% have overdosed on chemsex drug ‘G.’
- 3 in 10 who get high and horny, do it on their own with porn.
- Over half (53%) say they take more risks with their sexual health when on chems.
This survey was conducted as part of Gay Star News’s chemsex series of articles which is examining the relationship LGBTI people have between drugs and sex.
It was designed to find out about the way people are engaging in chemsex, rather than how many people are having it.
Responding to the survey, David Stuart the Chemsex lead at London’s sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street says ‘These results are consistent with the stories I hear from gay communities I visit around the world.’
What drugs are gay and bi men using for sex?
The majority indicated that G (the common term for gammahydroxybutyrate, GHB, or gammabutyrolactone, GBL) was one of several drugs used during their chemsex session.
When asked ‘which of the following drugs have you used for sex in the last year?’ Half said they used G, closely followed by ‘Tina’ (crystal meth) at 48%.
Monty MoncrieffChief Executive with London Friend the LGBT Health and Wellbeing charity that runs drug service antidote refers to the popularity of G, crystal meth and mephedrone as the ‘unholy trinity’ of chemsex drugs.
Gay Star News and Blued Global Chemsex Survey – Answers to ‘Which of the following drugs have you used for sex in the last year?’
Other drugs in the mix also included ecstasy, cannabis/weed and viagra. Poppers are the common name for isopropyl nitrite – which remains a legal substance in many countries, including the UK.
Apps are powering chemsex
The survey shows that apps are one of the main ways gay and bi men connect to have chemsex.
Four in five (82%) said they use apps in the planning of getting high and horny, buying drugs and finding parties.
Gay Star News and Blued Global Chemsex Survey – Answers to ‘What role do hook-up apps play in facilitating your chemsex life?’
We also know that nearly two thirds have their own drug dealers, while 16% are using apps to seek out dealers. Those that don’t have their own dealer, rely on a partner (46%). And, alarmingly, 7% swap drugs for sex.
How often are people high and horny?
Half of the respondents engage in chemsex at least once a month.
For 16% of the respondents it’s just once a month, however both twice a month (15%) and every weekend (14%) had similar rates. A smaller number (4%) got high and horny daily.
For the rest, chemsex seemed to be a more irregular experience. A quarter said it was just a few times a year, and 3% said they only took chems on public holidays.
Actors from the play 5 Guys Chillin’ by Peter Darney
Is everyone party and playing?
The often sensationalised chemsex parties are only part of the story for some of those engaging in chemsex.
Our survey found that only a third went to chemsex parties. Others played alone with a sexual partner – either someone they’d just met or a long-term partner.
Gay Star News and Blued Global Chemsex Survey – Answers to ‘Who do you most commonly take chems with?’
Chemsex can also be a solitary experience. The results show 30% are taking chems on their own and watching porn.
Liam McClelland is one person who gave a personal account of this to Gay Star News as part of its chemsex series.
He described to GSN how making the the decision to slam (inject drugs), ‘unlocked a side of chemsex that was destructive.’ He eventually ended up slamming on his own; feeling isolated through anxiety attacks and just seeking to escape.
‘Chemsex is destroying lives’
This is a phrase GSN has heard from many people while putting together its chemsex series.
The statistics in this survey make that even more clear.
Almost 1 in 4 (23%) who party and play say they know someone who died after a chillout.
When nearly two thirds (60%) experience anxiety or depression as a result of engaging in chemsex, it is clearly having a detrimental affect on many who experiment.
Beyond this, it’s hard to separate the incidence of sexual assault (reported by nearly 1 in 10), from the numbers who says they have overdosed on G – nearly a quarter of respondents.
This powerful drug is a depressant and notoriously easy to overdose on. Too much sends people into ‘G sleeps’: actually a type of coma. We’ve heard accounts throughout this series of people waking up from a G overdose and find themselves being fucked by someone.
Gay Star News and Blued Global Chemsex Survey – Answers to ‘Think about the choices you make about sexual health while using chems. Which of these statements do you most identify with?’
Alongside this, 30% of people who took part in the survey were HIV positive. One in 10 of the respondents say they contracted the virus while using chems for sex. And 37% say they caught another STI.
Ultimately, as summed up in the final question of the survey, over half admitted they were taking more risks with their sexual health while high on chems.
Gay and bi men in London are taking more risks
The largest proportion of respondents came from London, nearly a quarter. When you examine just Londoners, you see dramatic increases in risk taking.
Of course the results pool is smaller, however, it shows there are higher uses of the ‘unholy trinity’ of drugs. People are more likely to know someone who died and there are more overdoses:
- G use rises from half to 7 in 10.
- Mephedrone use doubles to two-thirds reporting use of the drug (from 32%).
- Crystal is used by 58% of Londoners compared with 48% globally.
- More people go to chemsex parties, 45% compared with 35% globally.
- G overdoses are much more common, 35% in London report having one.
- And 35% of London chemsex users know someone who has died (23% worldwide).
The trend indicates London’s gay and bi males are taking more risks on the chemsex scene. Narrowing down the results to the UK capital, 60% say they take ‘more or greater risks’ when using chems. This is higher than the global average of just over half (53%).
How does our community respond?
56 Dean Street is a global leader in chemsex support. Stuart himself coined the term ‘chemsex’ in 2001.
He says he feels ‘flush with unmanageable emotions’ at the results of this survey.
Stuart adds: ‘We must get angry, we must not accept these harms as normal recreational hazards. Overdoses, sexual assaults, psychosis, deaths must not be normal parts of our pursuit of sex. Or our pursuit of pleasure and connection.’
Read David Stuart writing for the series: Chemsex will define a period of our gay history
Starting the debate
Blued says: ‘Our app is focused on health promotion and making our platform and our community safer. We want to inform and facilitate sexual health education and take on important topics like this.
‘We hope this survey and content over the coming weeks will get people to think how to improve their safety.
‘We’re looking forward to discussing the issues in more detail in our event with Gay Star News at the end of the month.’
Gay Star News editor Tris Reid-Smith says: ‘We believe everyone is free to make their own sexual choices. Stigmatising people doesn’t help and we won’t be doing so.
‘But while some people appear to be managing the relationship to chems, others clearly are not. And sometimes the consequences are devastating.
‘People volunteered to do our survey, so it’s not scientific. But it does take a global snapshot of the chemsex phenomenon for the first time. We wanted it to inspire further research and get our community talking.
‘But the stats are only one part of that effort. We have gathered a wealth of personal stories, expert analysis, video interviews that we’ll be sharing over the coming days.
‘We hope people will find the information helpful as they try to protect themselves and others.’
This article is part of the Gay Star News Chemsex Series. Read more stories, support and see the videos on our chemsex section.