What there is to know about chemsex?


Background: Chemsex is a social and health phenomenon that is spreading internationally and gaining public attention and health community concern in current years. It refers to the voluntary and intentional intake of psychoactive and non-psychoactive drugs before or during sexual activities, in order to enhance the sexual encounter. This work intended to explore the existing literature on the topic, review current knowledge and sum up management strategies.

Material and methods: A non-systematic literature review was conducted by searching the terms “chemsex”, “chemical”, “sex” and “drugs” in Pubmed/MEDLINE Database. The research was limited to articles published in the last 5 years.

Results and Conclusions: Although the use of drugs during sexual practices is reported independently of gender and sexual orientation, studies show a higher proportion of chemsex among the population of men who have sex with other men (MSM) when compared to non-MSM population. Chemsex usually encompass the intake of drugs such as GHB/GBL, mephedrone, methamphetamine, poppers and ED agents, and usually more than one of those in each session. These drugs are used to facilitate, enhance and/or extend sexual encounters, ensuring pleasure and enjoyable experiences, and are frequently associated with the context of sex parties. Chemsex is being associated with several harms, such as higher incidence of STIs, drug related deaths and mental health issues. Moreover, some studies make reference to the drug use progression from sexual setting to other contexts. There is still a lack of available and comprehensive epidemiological data on chemsex and there is scarce information regarding therapeutic options for its management and treatment. Qualitative studies report that chemsex users lack supportive services where they feel understood and have their needs met. Harm reduction interventions are needed, with programs focusing on both drug dependence issue and sexual health.



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