Struggling with chems? Check out these practical tips on how to navigate the summer party season.

Summer is all about warm weather and good times, but this time of year can be a bit of a minefield for those of us struggling with the use of chems.

‘Chemsex’ is the term used to describe sexual activity between people who have taken specific drugs (chems) including crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) or gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) – these drugs can enable an enhanced sexual experience but they are highly addictive and come with significant health risks. These risks include:

  • Physical health: Accidents and injuries, nutritional issues, lungs and heart diseases, dental problems, disrupted sleeping patterns.
  • Mental health: High levels of depression, anxiety, or psychotic episodes such as paranoia or hallucinations.
  • Emotional health: Issues such as isolation, domestic and relationship issues, low self-esteem or inability to focus or make decisions.
  • Sexual health: High risks of transmissions and infections of HIV, HEP-C and other Sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, gonorrhoea. Chemsex users are also at risk of poor adherence to HIV medication – potentially jeopardising their Undetectable status.
  • Financial issues and unemployment.
  • Personal safety: such as overdoses, sexual assault, theft, or self-harm.
  • Legal issues – buying, selling, possessing and selling these drugs is illegal.

“Chemsex is more than just a drug problem…” explains Ignacio Labayen de Inza – founder of the London-based charity, Controlling Chemsex. “There is a combination of elements as powerful as sex, gay culture, drugs that can keep people awake for days prioritising sexual urges over any other consideration, internal homophobia and low self esteem, and difficulties with intimacy and isolation.”

Tips on how to control your chems use during the summer party season

  • Review your bio details on hook-up apps. Be explicit that you’re not interested in chems. Simply putting “No H&H” in your bio will limit the amount of temptation that comes your way.
  • Set limits on your use of hook-up apps. We’re at our most vulnerable when we’re searching for intimacy – particularly when it’s late at night and we’re feeling alone and isolated. If you’ve set yourself a rule that you’re not going to look at hook-up apps after 10 PM, have a plan for other things you can do if you’re awake and can’t sleep. It could be as simple as having some good porn on standby so you can masturbate and get the horniness out of your system.
  • Know your triggers.The biggest risk of a relapse often comes from friends or fuck-buddies that we’ve had good times with in the past. Odds are, you’re going to get an unexpected WhatsApp message asking if you’re up for some fun. Knowing that this trigger is going to present itself, have your coping mechanism ready to go – have a “no thanks” reply saved in your drafts, have someone lined up who you can call, have some porn ready to watch.
  • Keep a clear head. This is a time of year when the drinks are flowing, but we tend to make poor choices when we’ve got a few drinks under our belt. Try and minimise your alcohol intake and don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  • Keep yourself busy. If we’re feeling isolated and alone, and it feels like there’s nothing to do, then a chemsex session will seem increasingly appealing. Set yourself a list of tasks for the day. It could be as simple as reorganising your sock draw or as complicated as making some fresh pasta. There’s always something to do, if you set your mind to it.
  • If you do have a relapse, don’t beat yourself up too much. Slip-ups happen. Activate your support network and learn from it.