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How to reduce harm if you have chemsex

Prioritise your safety, educate yourself on the risk factors and learn more about reducing harms involved


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in sex-relationships


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Chemsex is a specific form of drug use and involves using one or more of three drugs, in any combination, in order to have sex and/or enhance sex, with or without other drugs. It's always safest not to use drugs at all however, if you choose to have chemsex it is important to prioritise your own safety, educate yourself on the risk factors, and work to reduce the risk and harms involved.

Read our article on What is chemsex to learn more on the topic.

Understanding the risks with chemsex

There are many risks associated with having chemsex. It's important to be aware of these.

Start small

Start with a very small test dose and wait at least two hours before taking more. See how you react to the drug, look out for yourself and others around you.

Mixing drugs increases the risks

This includes using with alcohol and prescription medication. Using GHB or "G" with other depressants such as alcohol is extremely dangerous and can lead to overdose or death.

Take breaks

Take breaks and allow yourself to cool down and hydrate. Sip a pint of water over an hour - too much water can be dangerous and lead to water intoxication, so drink slowly over time rather than all at once.

Be aware of the overdose risk

It is very easy to overdose on GHB. There is only a small difference in the amount required to get the desired effect and the amount that can cause an overdose. You should be very careful with the amounts you take and how often you take it. It is very easy to overdose on G.

G has a delayed onset which means it can take longer than expected to kick in. An additional risk is that someone may take a dose, think nothing is happening, and then take another dose. This can lead to accidental overdose.

Other risks to be aware of

Injecting drugs is more dangerous. Mephedrone is a cathinone type drug which can be extra risky if you have underlying heart conditions. Using drugs for long periods without sleep can impact on mental health or lead to a ‘drug induced psychosis’ where people can feel paranoid, hallucinate where they see, hear or feel things that are not real, become anxious or distressed. People may be a risk to themselves or others

‘Chemsex drugs’ such as mephedrone could cause a comedown with some feeling low or suicidal after use.

How to reduce harm if having chemsex

Be with people you trust

Having chemsex with people you trust can allow you to establish boundaries beforehand so you do not feel pressured into doing anything you may feel uncomfortable with later on. It is important to respect people’s autonomy and choices and remember that people, including yourself, may be vulnerable after consuming drugs. Set your boundaries in relation to sex and drugs beforehand.

Also, try to have one person present that is not using drugs to monitor the environment and get help if people need it.

Educate yourself on this risks associated with ‘chemsex drugs’

It's always safest not to use drugs at all. You can never be fully sure of the contents of illegal drugs or how you will react. However, if you choose to use drugs, always follow harm reduction steps. It is important to remember that chemsex drugs have a number of risks and it is very easy to overdose on GHB.

Know what to do in an emergency

If someone overdoses on G or ‘goes under’ and is unconscious, it is important to put the person in the recovery position and call an ambulance. Don’t be afraid to get help. Do not put off calling an ambulance if someone has overdosed. An overdose can transition from unconsciousness to coma and death very quickly. Remember, the ambulance service are not the Gardaí, they are not interested in getting anyone in trouble. Give them the remaining G (and/or other drugs taken) so that they know how to assist the person.

If someone goes under while on G they are not in control of what is happening to them. It is important not to let anyone have sex with another person who is unconscious, as this is rape. Make sure to look after the person so they are not involved in sex they cannot consent to. Read our article on GHB to learn more about reducing harm when taking G.

Reduce how often and for how long you have chemsex

Avoid having chemsex for too long of a period as doing so can lead to experiencing more negative effects. These can include anxiety, confusion, aggression, hallucinations (such as when you experience things that are not happening), paranoia (which can be a feeling that people are out to get you even though there is no proof that it is true), vomiting and loss of bodily control.

Taking drugs in order to have chemsex can have a negative affect on your mental and physical health. Reducing how often you have chemsex can help lessen your chances of experiencing the negative effects above and in the longer term lessen the possibility of depression and addiction.

Always use a condom

Carry condoms with you at all times, particularly if you know you will be having sex or using drugs. Use condoms every time you have oral, anal and vaginal sex. Only use a condom once and never reuse it. Read our article on Where I can get free condoms.

Do not share needles

Injecting drugs increases the risks. Drugs like GHB should not be injected.

If you are considering injecting drugs, learn how to do it safely.Get advice from a local needle exchange. Always have enough needles and never reuse a needle. If injecting stimulants you may feel the need to inject more often. Avoid letting someone else inject drugs for you and never share needles or other injecting equipment. Sharing equipment can increase your risk of acquiring HIV and other blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B and C. You can find out more about safer injecting practices on the Drugs.ie website..

Get regular STI and HIV checkups

It is important that if you are having chemsex you are also going for regular STI and HIV checkups. Free checkups are available around the country. Read our article on Free STI clinics to find the nearest one to you.

Consider PEP and PrEP

If you are HIV-negative and are not using condoms for sex you increase your chances of acquiring HIV. PEP is a month long course of medication which can help prevent HIV infection if you take it within 72 hours of the possible exposure (when you had sex). PrEP is also another medication which can prevent HIV infection if you take the medication around periods of sexual activity. Read our articles on PEP and PrEP.

Have sober sex

Try to find a balance between having chemsex and having sober sex. Relying on drugs to have sex can have negative long-term effects. Having sex when sober can allow you to connect more to the people you have sex with and allows you to make safer sexual choices. 

Chemsex can cause problems for people. If you feel that chemsex is negatively impacting on your life, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. There are non-judgmental support services available where people can discuss any chemsex related issues. 

Supports and Services

  • Drugs.ie: Online information and support for drug and alcohol use. Includes a national directory of drug and alcohol services
  • HSE Drugs, Alcohol, HIV and Sexual Health Helpline: Freephone 1800 459 459.
  • The Club Drug Clinic offers advice, support and detoxification for GHB (Liquid Ecstasy, G) and other chemsex and club drugs is an integrated person centred specialist addiction service: Tel 016488600
  • Rialto Community Drug Team
  • Find a local service through the National Directory for Drug and Alcohol Services at Drugs.ie/services

LGBTI+ and Sexual Health Supports Services

  • Gay Men’s Health Service: Services for men who have sex with men (MSM) include free HIV and STI testing, free counselling, PEP, free condoms
    HIV Ireland
    : Services include free HIV and STI testing, free condoms, free counselling and community support services for people living with HIV
  • Belong To: BeLonG To is the national organisation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) young people between the ages of 14-23
  • Man2Man.ie: Sexual health information for men who have sex with men
  • Gay Switchboard Ireland: Information and support via phone, email and online chat for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Non-binary people. Tel:(01) 872 1055 or ask@gayswitchboard.ie
  • The Rape Crisis Network Ireland
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Published March 3rd2020
Last updated Novem­ber 30th2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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