Is chemsex an addiction? Of course it is, or can be! The allure of drug-fuelled sex, especially amongst gay men, has grown significantly. Calls for public health awareness initiatives, education and publicity have largely gone unheeded. Chemsex brings two of the world’s most prominent addictions – sex and drugs – together in an explosive fashion.
Chemsex is an oft-used term trivialising the dangerous and risky practice of mixing sex with any or all of methamphetamine, mephedrone and GHB: all addictive drugs in their own right. Add to the equation unsafe sexual activities, heightened sexual desires, and protracted sexual activity, and the repetitive practise of chemsex is one of the most understandable addictions of all.
Although chemsex has been happening through the ages – since and probably before Cleopatra – the increased availability of liaisons via mobile hook-up apps such as Grindr has fuelled the practise. And availability of the drugs – and willing partners – in clubs, bars and online has grown exponentially.
Of course, not all chemsex lovers are addicts, but it is a very thin line between obsession and outright addiction. And for that matter, what is addiction? One very appropriate definition is ‘A pathological relationship with a mood-altering substance or experience that has life threatening consequences’ So, is chemsex an addiction? The British Medical Journal clearly identify the growing dangers of chemsex as; drug addiction; sex addiction; dual addiction; sexually transmitted infections. Add the usual very dangerous medical consequences of snorting, injecting, smoking or swallowing these drugs – coma, death and overdose – and chemsex perfectly fits the definition. There can be only one answer to the question: is chemsex an addiction? Yes. And as to when chemsex becomes an addiction? If it becomes obsessive, compulsive and/or damaging to one’s lifestyle, it certainly has become an addiction.
Like all addictions, chemsex has infiltrated all strata of society, from the halls of the ‘good and the great’ though the corridors of power, to the clubs bars and street corners. Addiction is a great leveller that does not distinguish between its victims!
As with all addictions, there could be huge short and long term consequences to be paid for the instant gratification joys of chemsex. The feelings of heightened connection with sexual partners and loss of inhibition are seductive. Yet when the sex is over, the individuals’ inherent problems – loneliness, low self-worth, shame, guilt and remorse to name but a few – seem more intrusive than ever. Like all addictions, eventually the practices take back everything they initially gave – fivefold. The promises of happiness, fulfilment, love and unrivalled joy are proven to be lies – just seductive repeated lies.
However, many times the individual seeks to recreate the first one, or ten, or fifty instances, the same high and euphoria can rarely be re-experienced: the resulting lows become enhanced. And so it is with every addiction: heroin; alcohol; food; gambling; chemsex.
Is chemsex an addiction? Another gauge is whether SafeHouse will treat sufferers. We are an addiction treatment centre after all, and we would certainly help people with the dual addiction of sex and drugs. The SafeHouse clinical team are well versed in sexual and chemical addictions, and without doubt are able to treat people through to recovery.