Identifying The Impact Of Chemsex On Our Lives
Part of our Real Chemistry series – connection, wellbeing and chemsex recovery.
This page introduces information about identifying the impact of chem use and chemsex on our lives, and is the starting point of the Real Chemistry online workshops. After you have read through the information there are some exercises for you to work through, to support you in having clarity over the impact of chem use, and chemsex for you personally. You may find it helpful to have a notebook to use as you work through the exercises, or you could use the function on a phone or tablet.
Chems + Sex = Chemsex
A simple definition of chemsex is:
‘The intentional use of drugs to help enhance and/or facilitate sex’.
If we examine this definition more closely we see that there are two distinct terms that are used:
Enhance: To heighten the experience of sex.
Facilitate: To make the experience of sex easier.
Take a moment to think and reflect on this definition, as well as the terms ‘enhance’ and ‘facilitate. How do you relate to these themes? Can you identify with either term?
In terms of the frequency of your chemsex engagement, how much space does the use of chems and chemsex take up in your life? What sexual experiences are you having without the use of chems and what positives can you identify during these experiences?
Let’s acknowledge that the harms that have arisen for you due to your chem use and chemsex engagement are going to be unique to you as an individual, and will be dependent on what, how much, and how often you are using.
For some the harms may be minimal, however enough to motivate you in seeking some kind of support to minimise the impact on your wellbeing. For others though the harms may have been much higher, and have now in fact exceeded any positive past experience you may have had, and this has now resulted in an impact on all aspects of your life and mental health.
Take some time to reflect on the reason for seeking support around the issues that have come up for you personally while engaging in chemsex. Now reflect and write down what you hope to achieve in terms of minimising the harms to your general wellbeing and mental health.
For some of you, you may have already identified that the only way to minimise the harms you experience from chemsex is for you to stop altogether. However if this is not an option for you, then it is important to implement some harm reduction advice so you work towards reducing the various ‘harms’ of any chem use on your emotional, psychological and emotional health.
Take some time to reflect & think about the following questions:
What do you know about the drugs you have been using, as well as the related harms on your general wellbeing & mental health?
How have you been taking these chems i.e Slamming, smoking etc and what do you know about the harms that may arise from administering chems in this way? What support or advice may you need to engage in to ensure that you do this with limited physical & mental health risks?
What do you know about the effects/after effects of the chems you have been using?
What (if anything) do you know about the term ‘harm reduction’ and how might the risks you face be minimised by implementing some harm reduction advice?
It’s probably safe to say that knowing as much as you can about the chems you have been using, as well as the harms that may arise, can support you in taking steps to either reduce the impact on your lives, or to make the decision to take a break so that your wellbeing and mental health can stabilise and improve.
Further information that may support you in knowing more about the chems you have been using, and for making the choice right for you, can be found here.
The 3 Areas Of Our Lives That Chemsex Can Impact
Of course the impact of chemsex can seep into various parts of your life i.e. finances, relationships, work etc, however the more personal impact of chemsex will probably be on:
Emotional Health - Whereby you start to experience different feelings, mostly negative.
Psychological Health - Whereby your mental health is impacted, and starts to deteriorate over time.
Physical Health - Whereby your chem use starts to create problems for your body, or you leave yourself open to physical risks such as overdose, sexual health issues or issues around consent & sexual assault.
Take some time to reflect & think about how your emotional, psychological & physical health has been impacted by chemsex engagement, as well as what small steps you could possibly take to work towards making improvements in these different areas. You may also require some additional support to help you process some of the more negative experiences that may have come up for you, so think about what support services may be required.
Sexual Health Risks
Take some time to reflect & think about how your sexual health has been impacted by chemsex engagement. What risks are you currently facing? How might you reduce these risks? What information or support services might you need to approach for further support with managing your sexual health?
Minimising Sexual Health Risks
Of course we all know that condoms offer a reliable way of limiting sexual health risks and is probably the simplest piece of sexual health advice you can follow. However if this is not an option for you then it’s probably a good idea to get regular sexual health screening, and perhaps it is important to remember that there are other ways to limit the sexual health harms that may arise from chemsex:
PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) - for HIV Prevention for those who have had unprotected sex, or believe they have been exposed to HIV. This medication needs to be taken within 72 hours of exposure, and makes infection with HIV less likely, but does not work in all cases. Medication needs to be taken for 28 days. PEP can be obtained from Sexual Health Clinics, HIV Clinics, and A&E Departments.
PReP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) - HIV Prevention for people who are HIV negative but may be exposed to HIV through injecting drugs to engage in chemsex, or having condomless sex with a HIV+ partner, or multiple partners, whose HIV status is unknown. Medication is taken to reduce their risk of getting HIV if they are exposed to the virus. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body.
If you know your HIV status and are currently taking medication then think about how your chemsex engagement may affect your adherence to taking your medication daily. A simple way to support yourself would be to set a reminder in your phone, and if you go meet someone for a chemsex session, then take some medication with you just in case the session spills over to the next day.
- Identifying the impact of chemsex on our lives
What is the impact of chemsex on yourself, and how does this also impact those around you?
What is the impact of chemsex on you:
What small steps can you take to immediately reduce any harms to your emotional, psychological & physical wellbeing? i.e.follow sexual health, harm reduction advice etc.
What other harms would you like to minimise so you improve your general wellbeing and mental health?
What percentage of their sex life/free time involves chemsex?
What might you need to implement into your free time to ensure you live a balanced and connected life?
What physical risks are you currently facing due to chemsex engagement?
What steps can you take to minimise any risks to your physical wellbeing?
What ideas do you have about any future chem use?
What support may you need to support you in making these changes?