Having sex under the influence of illegal drugs - known as “chemsex” - should become a public health priority, researchers have said.
There has been a sharp rise in the use of drugs like GHB, GBL and crystal meth to enhance sexual pleasure and reduce inhibitions - but may put users at risk, they warned.
Evidence suggests the drugs are used by certain groups, including gay men, for “sustained arousal” and “instant rapport” with partners. Experts writing in the British Medical Journal say that, in these groups, unprotected sex is the norm and users of the drugs report an average of five sexual partners per session.
Some drug users describe memory loss and not sleeping or eating for days, while injecting drugs along with chemsex creates “a perfect storm” for transmission of HIV and hepatitis C.
They also warn of serious mental health problems - but many drug users are afraid to access health services.
“Many barriers exist to chemsex drug users accessing services, including the shame and stigma often associated with drug use and ignorance of available services,” the team behind the research - specialists in sexual health and substance abuse in London, explained.
Some services are now developing specific chemsex and “party drug” clinics, with specialist mental health support and help for withdrawing from the drugs
Mephedrone and crystal meth are physiological stimulants, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as triggering euphoria and sexual arousal.
The authors said data on drug use in a sexual context in the UK is lacking, but at one London clinic around 64% of people needing help with drug use reported using chemsex drugs in 2013/14.
The experts said: “Addressing chemsex-related morbidities should be a public health priority.” However, in England funding for specialist sexual health and drugs services is waning and commissioning for these services is complex.
Were you aware of the chemsex phenomenon? Would you know where to get help if you needed it? Let us know your thoughts on @YahooStyleUK
Image: Sipa Press/REX Shutterstock