'Chemsex' risk messages should target all, survey suggests

by Reuters
Monday, 1 April 2019 23:01 GMT
Gay and bisexual men were more likely to have combined sex and drugs

By Kate Kelland

April 2 (Reuters) - Combining sex and drugs is common among all genders and sexual orientations, with people in Britain more likely to engage in the practice than Americans, Australians or other Europeans, according to a global survey.

The findings suggest that messages about reducing potential harm from the practice - including overdosing, date rape and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases - should be targeted at all genders and sexual groups, researchers said.

The findings, published on Tuesday in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, showed that alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy, or MDMA, are the drugs most commonly combined with sex, and that users say MDMA in particular enhances "intimacy".

Survey respondents from Britain were the most likely to combine drugs with sex - known as "chemsex" - as compared with America, other European countries, Australia and Canada.

And while people of sexual orientations reported engaging in substance-linked sex, gay and bisexual men were more likely to have done so. Homosexual men were 1.6 times as likely as heterosexual men to have used drugs with the specific intent of enhancing sexual experience in the last year.

"While using drugs in combination with and to specifically enhance the sexual experience tends to be associated with gay and bisexual men, we found that in our sample, men and women of all sexual orientations engaged in this behaviour," said Will Lawn, an expert at University College London's Psychology & Language Sciences department who co-led the research.

He said this highlighted the need for harm-reduction messages to be targeted to all groups, and not just towards gay and bisexual men.

"By engaging with your audience and accepting that drugs provide pleasure as well as harms, you can deliver harm reduction messages in a more trustworthy and nuanced manner," Lawn said in a statement about the survey's results.

Around 22,000 people responded, as part of the Global Drug Survey, to online questions about sex and drugs. They were asked about whether they used drugs specifically to enhance sexual experiences, and how these drugs affected their experiences.

Alcohol, cannabis, MDMA and cocaine were most commonly used, while the so-called "club drugs" GHB/GBL and ecstasy/MDMA, were rated most favourably. For example, MDMA was reported to increase "emotionality/intimacy" the most, while GHB/GBL was said to heighten "sexual desire" the most. (Reporting by Kate Kelland Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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