Chemsex - Understanding sexualised drug use
Korhonen, Aku (2018)
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Chemsex, the sexualised use of psychoactive substances is a form of recreational drug use that is characterised by prolonged, often unprotected sexual sessions with multiple sexual partners while being under the influence of drugs like crystal methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and mephedrone. Though first observed among the MSM (men who have sex with men) population around the world, there are signs of the practice among other populations. This study was conducted as a descriptive literature review with the aim of better understanding the sexualised use of psychoactive substances, the harms associated with it and the available harm reduction and treatment options. Three databases (PubMed, Academic Search Premier (EBSCO), Google Scholar) were used for the literature search resulting in a final sample of 11 scientific articles, along with 5 non-scientific sources. The study concludes that chemsex happens mostly in private spaces with social media platforms used to attract like-minded people and to procure drugs. People engaging chemsex are driven by two key motivations: to enhance sexual experiences or to escape/manage negative emotions. Participating in chemsex is revealed to subject people to a range of physical, mental and socio-economic harms and it is connected to an increase in intravenous drug use and the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. While many chemsex participants have unmet harm reduction needs, they face difficulties accessing harm reduction and drug treatment. There appears to be a need for specialised chemsex or party drug clinics, as conventional drug treatment is found to ill-fitted to deal with chemsex related issues and sexual health services lack the expertise to manage substance abuse. In Finland, chemsex is slowly gaining ground, prompting a proactive approach to an escalating issue.