Research conducted by academics from the University of Glasgow and published in Europe PubMed Central reveals that one-in-seventeen gay and bisexual men in Ireland have engaged in chemsex in the past year.
Chemsex refers to the use of drugs before or during sex, usually between gay or bisexual men. The most common drug to take for chemsex is ‘G’, which could refer to GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) or GBL (gammabutyrolactone), and can give participants a more euphoric feel than regular intercourse.
There were over 3,200 research participants from Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales all of whom completed questionnaires online. Respondents were sourced from a number of gay websites such as Gaydar, Recon and Squirt.
Of the participants, over 25% (632) were from Ireland.
Results of the research found that 38 of the 632 (6%) Irish responses said they had used chemsex drugs in the last year, the same percentage as the overall average.
The rate of use was highest in the North with 8.5% of respondents confirming chemsex use in the last year.
Ages of participants ranged from 16 to 78, with an average age of 41. Almost all respondents identified as white, with 82% identifying as gay and 17% as bisexual.
60% of respondents were single and the same percentage had a third-level education.
30% said they had attended a sex party/or had group sex in the last year.
Of those who engaged in chemsex in the past year, 20% reported ‘slamming’. This is when drugs are injected for higher arousal.
The academics who conducted the study say that while there appears to be a low rate of chemsex use in Ireland, it noted the relationship between group sex and chemsex and that the behaviour is likely to be higher in urban areas.
The study emphasised the importance of early identification of the most vulnerable to chemsex-related harm and the need for specialised responses.
In GCN’s Sex Issue 2018, a number of men spoke with Stephen Moloney about their experiences of the scene. ‘Barry’ spoke about the issue of consent when taking drugs.
“For many, [the scene] gives them a sense of being free and experimenting, of having sex they might not otherwise engage in. [My sexual health] would always be on my mind. This year, I drank orange juice without realising, or being told, there was a high dose of G in it, and didn’t use a condom while having penetrative sex with three guys. As a precaution, I went on PEP within the recommended 72 hour window. I’ve been on PEP twice as a result of chemsex sessions.
“On most occasions I have been in control while high when it’s planned, exceptions being when I had a dose or drug I wasn’t expecting. After parties can be a safe space for sex but only when at least one person knows how to deal with emergency situations.
“Most people are secret in Ireland about discussing the issue due to judgement, stigma and legal reasons, ranging from illegal drug use to matters of consent. Consent in chemsex scenarios needs to be constantly asked and given otherwise it may not be consent.”
Moloney spoke to Adam Shanley, an expert on the topic who has previously worked with GMHS and now with HIV Ireland.
Shanley’s ask is simple: “I’m all for people having as much as sex and as many drugs as they are happy to have but that should come with a responsibility. It should come with the care and compassion for those who you are having those drugs and that sex with – and yourself. It’s about enjoying whatever sort of sex or drugs, with an onus on all of us to look out for each other.”
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The survey found that 14% of men in Ireland have used stimulant drugs in the last year to make sex more intense or last longer.
If you are affected by this topic, Gay Switchboard Ireland can be contacted on 01 8721055.
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