Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Chemsex: Why Does It Matter?

Chemsex, having sex under the influence of illegal drugs and often with multiple partners, is rapidly increasing and should be a public health priority due to increased HIV risk say experts.

The practice is mainly carried out by gay men using a combination of drugs such as mephedrone, GHB, GBL and crystal meth enabling them to have sexual sessions lasting hours or even days.

The authors referred to the Chemsex Study, the first British research project of its kind from earlier this year which used data from the European Men-who-have-sex-with-men Internet Survey (EMIS). Of 1,142 respondents in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham, around a fifth reported chemsex within the past five years and one in ten within the past four weeks, suggesting that it is practised by a minority of men who have sex with men...

Antidote, a specialist service for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in London, reported almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of attendees seeking support for drug use reported using chemsex drugs in 2013-14. Of crystal meth and GHB/GBL users, most reported using them to facilitate sex, with around three quarters reporting injecting drug use...

The Independent. 

This is one of a number of stories about a short report published by the BMJ (British Medical Journal), What Is Chemsex And Why Does It Matter?

See also the Daily Mail, Daily Star, the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and the Mirror. 

For which journalist can resist a scare story that seems to mix up (gay) sex and drugs and death?

Especially when it concerns the media's current obsession/bogeyman CHEMSEX!!!??

Though all were relatively calm; and none reached for the usual narcophobic cliches and wrote of an imaginary EXPLOSION or EPIDEMIC.

In fine, it's hardly groundbreaking stuff; 'a minority of men who have sex with men' have reported having sex on drugs '('chemsex' has a rather elastic definition here), unprotected sex is not unusual (the BMJ report says it's 'the norm', a nebulous term given without clarification or qualification), some have sought help from drug agencies.

A few brief points...

There is no new research.

The Chemsex Study - which The Guardian first reported on rather hysterically in April 2014 - was based on interviews with just 30 men (plus focus groups).

The EMIS survey - an online self-selecting survey, please note, thus possibly about as reliable as a fortune-telling horse - asked not about 'chemsex parties', but the use of 'drugs typically used at (sex) parties (party drugs)'; 'ecstasy, amphetamines, crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone, GHB/GBL, ketamine or cocaine' [page 154].

The BMJ article used the line; 'Chemsex drug users often describe “losing days” -  not sleeping or eating for up to 72 hours' (with an 'an average of five sexual partners per session') - these anecdotal magic numbers are often presented as standard in these news stories.

Does it sound better than saying 'for up to four days'?

This quote was usually mis-interpreted; 'At Antidote, a specialist drugs service for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in London, around 64% of attendees seeking support for drug use reported using chemsex drugs in 2013-14.'

This does not say 64% of attendees engaged in chemsex parties, just that they had taken certain drugs usually associated with it in the last year, nor does it say that chemsex was what they were specifically seeking help with. 

What do you think gay men who'd gone for advice about drugs - at a gay men's drugs service - would say?


Note how the Telegraph present this story as chemsex becoming popular among 'the heterosexual mainstream population', though co-author Jamie Willis doesn't sound too convinced.

There's no reason to think something some gay men do will catch on in a similar way among straight people.

It's about as convincing an argument as saying straight men will start loving Lady Gaga eventually.

Oh, and Jamie Willis works for Antidote - so one notes how the BMJ article concludes by stating it should be 'A PUBLIC HEALTH PRIORITY' to increase funding to gay-specific drug services.

Please remember 'experts' are always right, and never wrong.

They are there to be quoted, never questioned.

Good day.

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