Drugs, Sex, and Emotional Attachment: Researcher Explores Chemsex
“Once I got out of it [the relationship], then, I went all out. A lot of partying, mainly. And back to using chems but now, with an increasingly active search for them, a desire to try out new things and all that.”
That’s Gaspard, a 28-year-old engineer who had two periods of particularly hazardous drug use – one early in his sex life when he found out that he was HIV positive, and another following a romantic breakup.
Drug use during sex is infamous in the LGBTQ+ community, especially amongst gay men. The “Party and Play” scene is easy to find, and for some, it has become the one, and only avenue to sexual expression.
Today, “slamming”, or injected drug use mixed with sex, is increasing. Though realistic estimates are hard to find, any sexually active gay men can point you the profiles of drug users who advertise for PnP, or Party and Play.
It is seen as deviant by the larger gay community, and as wholly unconnected to monogamous relationships, but is that true?
Romain Amaro, a researcher in France conducted 25 in depth interviews with gay men who use drugs in Paris and Lyon, France, published in this study, the results were surprising.
“The suffering and loneliness that follow romantic breakups can trigger uncontrolled drug use while feelings of ‘love fusion’ between ‘slammers’ can encourage further risk-taking,”
“But romantic relationships can also provide crucial symbolic and material support to place limits on drug use in ways that reduce harm.”
In short, for many of the participants injected drug use was initiated by a traumatic break-up, or the start of an intense relationship with a partner who already injected drugs regularly.
Jules, a 23-year-old student described using drugs with sex this way:
“I met my ex, with whom I stayed almost six months. I was 21 years old, almost 22. We met during a slamming session. And mephedrone helped. You’re in love with everybody, it may have eased the beginning of our story as a couple, maybe a bit too much? In the beginning, it was my boyfriend who injected me.”
While this article focuses on the impact in the LGBTQ+ community, specifically amongst gay men. This isn’t a phenomenon that is isolated to the gay community. Studies among heterosexual couples who inject drugs show injecting can be an intimate experience. For those who take part, sharing needles is seen as a sign of trust, and love. Women often rely on their male companion to inject them.
The illusory feelings of love, and attachment that chemical use can bring with it create problematic behaviors. The social isolation that manifests when couples use drugs together leads to job loss, and depression.
A repeating theme in the stories given by interviewers in the study was needing relief from boredom, or seeking loving connections from other men.
26-year-old Amine explains:
“I wasn’t working, I had a lot of spare time, so I did it all the time, I had nothing else to do. I used drugs out of boredom, and I was very bored. During that time, I always had my computer on, all the time, at home. I looked for a hook-up and that was it, if I found one, it was good, if there were drugs, even better.”
But, Amine realized the risks, and found a ways of exploring sexuality, and life without the use of drugs. Attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, finding work, and attending therapy, helped.
But the most important change was finding a partner who was drug-free.
“I met someone who helped me… If he hadn’t been there, I couldn’t have managed my drug use.”
If you or someone you know is having trouble with drug abuse, contact your local Health Department, or visit an HIV testing facility near you.
For more information on HIV/AIDS and reducing your risk.