UCD’s branch of the Students For Sensible Drugs Policy hosted an open discussion on Chemsex on Wednesday evening as a part of the Students Union SHAG day and UCD LGBTQ+s Media Week. Chemsex, which is classified as the sexualized use of drugs, is an often ignored topic, but research suggests that participation is on the rise in Ireland, especially amongst the LGBT community.
The talk which was led by Adam Shanley from the Gay Men’s Health Service discussed why the topic is so stigmatized, and how safety and education was a key need for those who participate in Chemsex. Speaking as to the possible dangers associated with Chemsex, Shanley said that he would call it ‘the aids of our day’ due to the stigma attached to it, and the fact that it particularly appeals to those who typically are not looking out for their own welfare so much as they should be.
Shanley stressed throughout that his aim was not to tell people that they could not participate in Chemsex, but rather to educate them in how to do so in as safe a manner as possible. He referenced a survey done by the Gay Men’s Health Service which showed that nearly 75% of people who said they had participated in Chemsex in the previous year were satisfied that were content with there usage of the drugs and the experience as a whole. This indicated that the vast majority of people were not exposing themselves to the possible risks associated with Chemsex.
Among the most serious risks, Shanley illustrated were those associated with the usage of the various drugs that are most popular in this scene, namely G, Mephedrone and Crystal Meth. All of these drugs lead to increased energy levels and arousal, which can present dangers to users hearts and nervous systems.
Shanley says that his main aim and the major focus of his work is harm reduction. This is typically done through education programs, where those who may be using these drugs are given information on how to treat friends who may overdose in an emergency situation. There is also a major effort to inform health care professional of the effects of these drugs on the body, as approaches previously adopted by the healthcare profession such as letting those on these drugs simply ‘dry out’ may, in fact, present a greater danger to patients than anything else.
Shanley said that he has received pushback from a number of groups, including members of the LGBT community for his work around Chemsex. The community, in particular, he said, were concerned about the impression that they could be shamed for participating in sexual acts that the majority did not approve of. A wider issue with the issue of Chemsex is that sits at a cross-section of two subjects society as a whole is uncomfortable discussing, sex and drugs.
This has however not stopped him getting it listed as part of the HSE’s National drugs strategy and continued education efforts in clubs, bars and clinics.
Auditor of the SSDP group Ailish Brennan said it was an pleasure to have Shanley in as part of SHAG day saying ‘his expertise in the field of chemsex harm reduction provided us with an informative discussion which hopefully left people with a better knowledge of the risks associated with chemsex and how to act in a way that limits the potential damage that engaging in Chemsex can lead to.’
By Aaron Bowman – CoEditor