Our CEO Monty Moncrieff discusses a new report in the British Medical Journal, and outlines Antidote’s response to chemsex.
Our work on chemsex is widely discussed in the media today following publication of a new article in the British Medical Journal. The report – co-authored by our Antidote Training and Outreach Manager Jamie Willis, along with colleagues at our partnership service The Mortimer Market Centre, discusses the public health concerns of chemsex. The article is reported in, amongst others, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail.
The majority of our work in our Antidote drug and alcohol service now centres around chemsex, a trend we began to notice a few years ago. Antidote clients reported a stark change in the drugs they were using, and the situations they were using in. Strong stimulants like crystal meth and mephedrone are extending chemsex sessions, with practices such as ‘slamming’ (injecting) and condomless sex raising public health concerns.
Of equal significance is the impact of chemsex on mental health, with those most adversely affected also likely to report low self-esteem and a lack of belonging, struggling to find their place in the gay community and on an unforgiving commercial club scene selling the dream of sexual escapism and a glamourous perfect-bodied fantasy lifestyle.
Antidote’s response to chemsex has been to incorporate interventions around sexual behaviour into substance misuse treatment, to look at all the issues holistically. Our staff and volunteers provide an LGBT environment where our service users feel safe to discuss all aspects of their sexual and substance behaviour without judgement, and are encouraged to take steps to improve their health and wellbeing by stopping or learning how to better control their drug and alcohol use.
We’ve worked hard to highlight the issues, writing articles and training healthcare staff working in drug services and sexual health clinics - almost 700 people attended training with us last year. We’ve taken drug services into sexual health settings, pioneering specialist clinics like Code at 56 Dean Street and Monday mornings at The Mortimer Market Centre. We’ve inputted to new clinical guidance for professionals new to the changing drugs with our partners at the CNWL Club Drug Clinic, and have published a report, Out Of Your Mind, which can help commissioners and providers of drug treatment services improve their work with LGBT people and chemsex.
As London sexual health clinics embark on a new transformation project it’s the perfect opportunity to consider the integration of sexual health and substance misuse support, ending the current postcode lottery of local drug services for local people with varying knowledge of chemsex trends and centres that are unwelcoming to gay and bisexual men. GUM is the new frontline for chemsex and in it we have opportunities to reach people before their chems become a problem, with harm reduction support to help people take back more control over their health.
Antidote offers free drug and alcohol support for LGBT people, specialising in chemsex. For information on our services, including our partnership sexual health clinics, visit www.londonfriend.org.uk/antidote