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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 264 > Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs

Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs

NEXT MONTH A NEW DOCUMENTARY CHEMSEX REVEALS THE HARMFUL AFFECTS THAT A NEW WAVE OF DRUGS ARE HAVING ON A SIGNIFICANT MINORITY OF US.

HERE, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST PATRICK CASH AND A GROUP OF LONDON MEN SPEAK HONESTLY ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES OF A SITUATION AT CRISIS POINT.

PATRICK CASH ON GAY SEX AND DRUGS

Three years ago I was living in Paris when one of my gay friends went back to London for a funeral. The guy who had died was young, in his twenties, and had choked on his own vomit at a house party. He’d passed out on a drug called G. When his boyfriend found him, he was no longer breathing.

I knew most of my gay and straight friends took drugs of some kind or another, but this was the first time I’d heard of a death. It was shocking, but I thought it was a one-off tragedy.

It was only when I came back to London and began working for gay nightlife magazine QX, that I realised this kind of incident was not infrequent at chillouts – house parties where men take drugs and have sex.

It’s not as if drugs are a new thing for gay or straight people. What has changed is the particular drugs being used: mephedrone, crystal meth and GHB/GBL (or G), or as one academic I interviewed called them, “the unholy trinity”.

Mephedrone is snorted as a powder. £20 for a gram, it’s as cheap as three double vodka and cokes and keeps the user going far longer. It’s a stimulant that removes inhibitions and can often be a gateway to its two headier siblings.

Crystal meth was made famous by Breaking Bad, but on the gay scene we’ve nicknamed her ‘Tina’ or ‘T’, which makes the drug sound far less meaner. Smoked from a glass pipe, or injected straight into a vein, some say it makes sex unimaginably good. Prices vary, but can include your teeth (it’s highly corrosive) and your sanity, as crystal meth use can often lead to psychosis and paralysing, painful come downs.

GHB/GBL is a clear liquid. Known as G, it is shotted with a soft drink in millilitres, and must be measured accurately in carefully timed doses. Of course, as people get high, carefulness and accuracy become distorted. Too much G, and you ‘go under’, in spasm and twitching into a comatose state. G deaths have become a thing – if you can describe such an event with such a neutral noun – as the drug shuts down vital organs or provokes heart attacks. As Attitude went to press, 40-year-old Stephen Port from Barking was charged with the murder of four young men who, it is alleged, died after overdosing on G.

Writing about drugs is always difficult. Judging gay guys who are using drugs is not going to help us solve this problem. Yet, if I’ve taken a stronger tone than usual so far, it’s because people in our community are dying on our doorsteps. We hear about it in the news when it happens in saunas, because the sauna workers phone ambulances and the hospitals report the incident. In private homes, it slips under the media’s eye. We asked the 18 guys interviewed for this feature if they’d personally known someone who had died from a drug overdose. All but two had. One said he knew three people who died in one month. We can’t continue to tiptoe around the truth.

“It’s hardly as if drugs are a new thing. What’s changed is the particular drugs being used: mephedrone, crystal meth and GHB. As one academic I interviewed for this piece called them, “an unholy trinity.”

“I first became aware of chemsex in 2001, when I was using crystal meth myself,” says David Stuart, now Substance Use Lead at sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street, who features heavily in the Chemsex film set for release in December, “It was before Grindr had been launched, and a small but significant international network of crystal meth and GBL users (known as “Crystal Clubbers”) met up in sex-on-site venues and in people’s homes.”

David eventually stopped drugs himself and wanted to use his newfound sobriety to help others. He began volunteering at Turning Point’s LGBT drug service Antidote, now run by London Friend. In 2006/2007, the service was overwhelmed with the number of guys reaching out with serious problems from using drugs.

“Such large numbers that it completely transformed the nature of our work,” states David. “One of the main problems for guys who get into chemsex would probably be how quickly they lose the ability to have enjoyable sober sex. Other effects on their lives are: missing days at work; feeling exhausted and emotional all week; plus the dramas associated with unpleasant highs toward the end of the ‘bender’. Paranoia can be seriously traumatic. Then there’s the way it dominates people’s weekends as they lose touch with friends and families.”

And where sex and drugs are involved you can often find an uninvited guest, galloping in bareback to join the party: sexually transmitted infections such as HIV and, also now, increasingly, hepatitis C.

“It’s very hard to adhere to safe sex practices when in the grip of these very powerful, sexual disinhibitors”, says David. “Approximately 3,000 guys per month come to 56 Dean Street with the sexual health consequences of chemsex. Finding a definitive correlation between HIV infection and chem use presents a number of practical challenges for academic researchers, but the work is underway to accrue it.”

In 2014 Dean Street took the unprecedented step of appointing David to help them cope with the problematic drug use of their clients, and he now travels around the country to train other services. Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham… The list goes on. This issue is not confined to the capital.

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About Attitude

The Red Issue of Attitude marks World AIDS Day on 1st December, and one of the world’s most successful gay actors Zachary Quinto appears on the cover, with an exclusive interview and shoot. Inside we have an 18 page look at the chemsex problem which has emerged in London’s gay community, and we interview YouTuber Tyler Oakley, legendary broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, pop breakout star Fleur East and author Hanya Yanagihara. Also with the download, you’ll get Attitude’s special Screamers, a 58 page supplement devoted to the horror films and TV shows we know and love.
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