30th January 2019, Gae Sawitri
The horror story behind the rise of chemsex addiction in Australia
When you begin to explore the story behind Chemsex addiction you can’t help but to empathise with the thousands of Australian addicts and their families who are affected by this growing issue.
Homosexual males can have a difficult time ‘coming out’ and traditionally take longer to settle down into stable relationships with the median age of male same sex couples in Australia being 40 years old. Many gay men between 20 and 35 spend their social time in short time ‘hook ups’ for sex which are fuelled by party and play drugs and this activity is commonly known as Chemsex.
For many it can start by meeting someone on a dating app and one young man described his experience as ‘surreal’, that a good looking guy he met on a dating app invited him over to his place for sex. Drugs are quickly introduced and welcomed as a confidence boost and when the dopamine starts to hit, users are quick to fall in love with the high that follows.
So, what leads young gay men to look for this kind of fulfillment as opposed to a loving relationship?
During the early days of homosexuality, confusion is common and many men are not even 100% sure of their sexuality or may not have ‘come out’ to friends or family. This can lead them to look for ‘secret meet ups’ with other gay men and in many cases living an almost double life away from their friends, relatives and colleagues.
What is Chemsex addiction and why is it a problem?
Chemsex addiction isn’t just taking recreational drugs to increase confidence on a date, although it can start this way. It isn’t even still being high after a one night stand and looking for more stimulation.
It is deliberate hard core drug use to facilitate multiple sex sessions with other males over multiple days with either no or very little sleep.
What may start as just a way of increasing confidence to meet other men can quickly become out of control.
These sex parties are usually not just between two people wanting a ‘one night stand’ they are mostly group ‘orgies’ which last for whole weekends or multiple days and often involve huge amounts of alcohol and other recreational drugs.
Is Chemsex addiction driven by loneliness?
In a world where you are either hiding your true sexuality or have recently announced it to close family and friends, vulnerability is guaranteed. Without a strong support network, which is something that few young gay men are lucky enough to have it is easy to become lonely for love and desperate to be understood.
At first Chemsex may seem like the perfect opportunity to relax into the gay scene and have some fun, however the reality is much darker than this.
The effect of the Chemsex drugs including crystal meth, GBL and GHB is very fast and quickly makes gay men feel very attractive, sexual and engaged. Ex addicts describe the connection between them and the other participants as like nothing else they have ever experienced.
However, hardcore drugs such as this can quickly take hold of your system with devastating side effects such as hallucinations, panic attacks and even convulsions creating the opposite effect of the confidence boost these young men are searching for.
Of course, they return for more to boost their self esteem and feelings of positivity and soon addiction takes hold and interaction with the opposite sex becomes close to impossible without chemical assistance.
Who is at risk of Chemsex addiction?
A heavy number of Chemsex participants are HIV positive or have other diseases such as Hepatitis C. These illnesses often make them shy away from intimacy and go looking for a means to escape reality.
Young men who are worried about the stigma of their homosexuality may be drawn to these events as they can ‘fly under the radar’ and not be seen in more well known gay pubs and clubs.
In Australia, Chemsex or Party And Play nights are often held in private homes so the prominence of these parties only becomes known when there is inevitably a tragedy.
Younger gay men may also be more at risk of becoming addicted to Chemsex as older guys at Party and Play will be keen to sleep with them and may even lure them back with free drugs if finances prove to be a problem on the younger guys part.
Those who suffer from the bad after effects of Chemsex are still worrying about the stigma involved with their sexuality and the activities of party and play so they don’t seek help even when their behaviour is getting out of control.
Not everyone suffers negative effects immediately and those who start to struggle more quickly may feel a double sense of failure. They fell that they have already let down their family just by being homosexual and now they are not able to enjoy the social life that so many of the gay community appear to be enjoying without issues.
Figures suggest that between 10 and 20 percent of gay Australian men have tried Chemsex at some point and this is mainly attributed to curiosity. Taking recreational drugs at a club has unfortunately become almost a social norm in many situations and this often leads to sex even if that was not the original intention. Chemsex is often seen as taking that one step further but comes with many more risks including that of infection through multiple people using the same syringe.
Drug fuelled sex understandably leads to unprotected sex increasing the risk of STD’s also. Again the stigma worry means that men who are affected are less likely to seek medical attention and more likely to pass on these infections to others at later parties.
Not all Chemsex participants are new on the gay scene although newcomers are very vulnerable and susceptible to be drawn into these negative practices for multiple reasons including anonymity.
The average age of a Chemsex addict in Australia is 36 and often suffers from HIV, Hepatitis C or both. Some studies have uncovered that when a gay man discovers he has an incureable condition caused by sexual activity that his interest in developing and maintaining long term relationships is diminished and he is prone to turn to activities such as party and play. A new HIV diagnosis is likely to impact a person socially, as they share the news with friends and family, and what it means for them. It is also likely that a new HIV diagnosis will change a person’s behaviour, potentially for better or for worse (R. Holt et al., 1998)
How long does it take for Chemsex addiction to develop?
The short answer is ‘not long’, once men become used to having sex in this way it becomes very difficult to form any kind of normal relationship and a long relationship with the Chemsex community itself is formed.
Once a user starts to attend parties on a regular basis and puts his family, social or corporate life on hold to attend Chemsex parties then he is officially on the slippery slope to addiction.
Not long after starting regular use of Chemsex drugs, the user will find himself suffering physical withdrawal symptoms and needing to use more and more to combat these symptoms. This is when the body is starting to become physically dependant on the drug.
When Chemsex goes wrong
As with any type of drug use, overdose is always a possibility and can even result in death as was seen on multiple occasions in Australia and throughout the world during 2018.
When use of Chemsex drugs becomes more frequent or men even start using when they are alone there is a high risk of a tragic ending, friends and family members are urged to intervene before it is too late if they suspect an addiction is forming.
In such a close knit community as the Chemsex party and players, the death of a player can have a devastating effect throughout the community and instead of encouraging them to step back and get help it can lead to further binging and deeper addictions.
Awareness is key to solving the Chemsex crisis before it gets worse.
Understanding the signs of Chemsex addiction
If you have a gay male friend or family member who you suspect may be participating in Chemsex or Party and Play, be sure to watch out for these signs
Staying away from home for 2 – 3 days frequently without explanation
Distant and anxious with frequent mood changes
Lack of apparent social life and personal relationships but often away from home
Unexplained financial problems
Chemsex and rape – the shocking truth
The issue of consent is an often unspoken problem on the Chemsex scene, how can anyone really claim to have denied consent at a drug fuelled orgy?
Of course, this is different than the all too common problem of spiked drinks at a club or even the assumption of consent when you didn’t really say no?
What is ‘fair game’ and what is not within the Chemsex community can often be unclear and there appears to be an unwritten rule that attending a party and play event means that you are readily available for sex with any of the other participants.
No matter what the situation is, you always retain the right to say “no” and not to be taken advantage of. Many victims of Chemsex rape report going home with one guy only for him to invite all of his friends to join in the party after enough drugs had been taken. Others claim to have been convinced not to go to police after a drug rape with comments like “you’re off your face, the police won’t believe you, you can stay high for days after taking this drug”.
What help is available in Australia for Chemsex addiction?
In recent years, the Australian government has come to understand a lot more about the serious problem of Chemsex addiction which is affecting the gay community. Despite this understanding, specialist LGBTQ rehab’s are not easy to find and many sufferers choose to travel overseas to where there is a real understanding of the issues facing Chemsex addicts.
Research shows that addicts have a stronger chance of getting and staying clean when the underlying issues behind their addiction are addressed.
The best way to address the issues facing LGBTQ addicts is to use LGBTQ counsellors in a dedicated non judgemental environment.
This is the reason why many Australian Chemsex addicts are choosing Resort 12 in Thailand for residential rehab to recover from their addiction.
As the only specialist LGBTQ rehab outside the USA, Resort 12 offers a reassuring welcome to those looking to escape the curse of Chemsex addiction and a tranquil, calm environment away from their triggers with a team of qualified professionals who understand exactly what they are going through.
For more information regarding treatment for Chemsex addiction please contact our team for an informal assessment.