Study Reveals 30% of MSMs Participate in Chemsex

A person using a dropper to measure GHB at an after party

A new study examined the use of drugs and sex amongst men who have sex with men


A survey of over twenty-two thousand men who have sex with men (MSM) has revealed some interesting figures around their engagement with chemsex, which is the act of mixing drugs and sex.

This study looked at the behaviour of MSMs who engage with chemsex, also known as party and play or PNP, examining the types of drugs being used, the frequency and other areas.

The survey showed that over two-thirds (67%) of the 22,248 members who took part in the survey knew what chemsex was.

One of the most interesting statistics that the study revealed is that 30% of respondents have engaged in chemsex, with either crystal meth, G, cocaine, ecstasy, mephedrone, marijuana and heroin.



The study showed that 61% of respondents would not participate in chemsex, while 39% have done so or would consider doing it in the future.

The kinds of drugs that people were using to engage in chemsex were crystal meth (36%), marijuana (19%), cocaine (13%), MDMA/ecstasy (12%), GHB (6%), Mephedrone (6%), and other drugs (9%).

Of the participants who had participated in chemsex, over half of them had engaged in the activity more then ten times, while 5% had done it once, 8% had done it twice, 22% had done it 3-5 times and 14% had done it 5-10 times.

Respondents’ own homes were the most likely venue for people to engage in chemsex, with 68% of respondents indicating they have had chemsex there. 62% had had chemsex at a private party, 41% in a sauna or bathhouse, 29% in a sex club, and 40% in another venue.


Chemsex statistics infographic from
An infographic displaying the results of the survey on chemsex.



Of the participants, 65% were HIV-negative, while a further 3% were negative and on PrEP. Another 19% were HIV-positive with undetectable viral loads, 4% were positive and 9% didn’t know their HIV status.

While participating in chemsex, the majority of people did not use protection for oral sex (93%), whereas nearly half of respondents used protection for penetrable sex.

When it comes to remembering their experiences, 85.5% of those who engaged in chemsex were like to remember everything or mostly everything, while only 4% of people remembered almost nothing.

55% of the participants felt either very safe or safe when engaging in chemsex, with 31% feeling neutral, 11% feeling unsafe, and 3% feeling very unsafe.


Chemsex In Ireland

While drugs such as crystal meth, ecstasy, cocaine and even marijuana are included under the umbrella term of chemsex, in Ireland it is G (also known as GHB which converts to GBL in the body) which is being most closely associated with the chemsex phenomenon.

Experts are quick to remind us that mixing sex and drugs is not a new behaviour. “Mixing drugs and sex are not new,” confirms HIV Ireland’s Susan Donlon in a recent GCN interview. “What is new is the drugs that men are taking and new psychoactive substances becoming available,” such as mephedrone (which was previously available in head shops) and crystal meth.

A recent Irish Times article outlined one man’s experience of sex while taking GHB.

“Sex on [G] means you have less inhibitions and feel less insecurity and paranoia,” an anonymous gay man, given the moniker ‘Bill’, revealed.

“The sexual sensations become much more intense; even having your arm or back touched out can give your whole body an intense sensation.”



Gay Switchboard Director Adam Shanley points out that here in Ireland, there is a sense of community that doesn’t exist in places like London.

In the UK’s capital city, there have been instances where somebody loses consciousness from taking too much G at chemsex parties and the other people there panic, throwing them out on the street instead of putting them in the recovery position (to ensure they don’t choke on their own vomit) or calling an ambulance.

“That isn’t happening here, and there’s a reason: Dublin has a much stronger sense of community and it is a much smaller scene. People know each other, and we look out for each other,” he said.

“That bodes well for how we can tackle this problem.”

Shanley indicates that the safest way to limit risks is not to take G at all, but for those who do choose to take the drug, further information on how to keep safe and information on G detox clinics can be found here.

© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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