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Healing, Strengthening, and Advancing the Lives of LGBTQ People Seeking Recovery

What Is Chemsex?

a woman feels shame after engaging in chemsex on top of withdrawal symptoms from the drugs

Substance abuse and addiction are not uncommon within the LGBTQ community, and party drugs are very engrained in the club scene. Chemsex, a potentially dangerous combination of drugs and sex, is especially popular among men who sleep with men and can have serious risks and consequences. La Fuente Hollywood is mindful of the specific challenges the LGBTQ community faces regarding addiction, and we aim to provide professional and compassionate care for all who need it. Please get in touch with us at 888.903.9898 for more information about our LGBTQ addiction treatment programs in Hollywood, California

What Is Chemsex?

Chemsex refers to the practice of having sex with one or more partners under the influence of drugs like methamphetamine, GHB, ketamine, ecstasy, amyl nitrate, or mephedrone. More often than not, users are men who have sex with men (MSM) who gain access to drugs and sexual partners through online dating apps like Grindr or Scruff. Also referred to as ‘party and play,’ this once-fringe activity has entered the mainstream in a big way. The widespread use of dating apps is one of the main factors behind the growing popularity of chemsex. 

Participants enjoy chemsex for several reasons. The most obvious is because of the wild, uninhibited sex that results from drug use. Often these sex binges last for days with little need for sleep or food. But it’s not just the sex that’s appealing. Chemsex allows MSM to (temporarily) replace feelings of shame and rejection about their sexuality with feelings of empowerment and freedom. Indeed, for some users, chemsex is the first time they feel accepted and comfortable in regard to their sexual identity.

Is It Addictive?

In a word, yes. Chemsex is incredibly addictive. The drugs used during chemsex – most commonly meth and GHB – are stimulants that provoke the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. As a result, users feel energized, euphoric, invincible, and sexually aroused. 

Dopamine itself isn’t the problem when it comes to chemsex. Rather, it’s the quantity of dopamine released under the influence of drugs that leads to addiction. As a comparison, pleasurable, sober activities like eating and sex increase dopamine output by 150-300% above baseline levels. 

Conversely, meth use increases dopamine output by more than 1200%—three times more than other stimulants like cocaine. This dopamine overload overstimulates the brain’s pleasure center. This overstimulation creates extreme sexual desire and intense physical pleasure during sex. It also temporarily cancels out negative feelings like shame and anxiety.

Many users get hooked on chemsex not only because they feel empowered to live out their sexual fantasies but also out of fear that sober sex will be boring in comparison. And these fears are justified. Sober sex is no comparison to chemsex. The combination of drugs and sex, both of which are powerful behavioral reinforcers, creates a ‘super-high’ that’s more addictive than drugs or sex alone. This ultimately leads many to seek out the drugs even when sex is not involved, sometimes resorting to risky behavior to acquire them or getting into legal or financial trouble.

Why Is It Dangerous?

In the short term, users feel invulnerable to harm or risk. This results in more risk-taking behaviors like engaging in condomless sex or sharing needles. Both of these behaviors put users at a greater risk of HIV, Hepatitis C, and STDs. Indeed, the growing popularity of chemsex parties is one of the reasons behind the increase in new HIV diagnoses despite years of public health efforts. 

Other short-term side effects of chemsex include: 

  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations/perceptions of persecution
  • Overdose

Long-term meth use is linked to decreased sexual functioning and intimacy issues. Preliminary studies also show a connection between meth use and the worsening progression of HIV/AIDS due to nerve cell damage and cognitive problems.

Finally, tolerance and withdrawal occur with frequent and excessive use of any of the drugs associated with chemsex. Over time, users can become dependent, and many need professional help to overcome their addictions. 

The Benefits of Professional Treatment

Professional treatment is the best and safest option for anyone who wants to break an addiction and address any underlying mental health issues or root causes of the addiction. Some of the most significant benefits of getting help and support from a professional addiction treatment facility are:

  1. Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are managed by professionals and sometimes medication during the detox process.
  2. You go right into treatment from detox with no distractions and no opportunity to use or drink.
  3. You have access to 24/7 care and support.
  4. You can customize your treatment plan to include therapies and activities that suit your own unique needs.
  5. The support does not end after treatment; you will have a network of peer and alumni groups to depend on.

La Fuente Hollywood is here for you when you are ready to take that first step toward recovery and wellness.

La Fuente Can Help With Chemsex Addiction Treatment

At La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center, we’re proud to be a national leader in LGBTQ-affirming rehab and treatment. And because chemsex addiction affects mostly men who have sex with men, we’re well positioned to provide the safe, non-judgmental environment they need to recover and overcome their addiction. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today at 888.903.9898 or via our online form. We can help.