Life Chemsex: it’s toxic… By David, 27 from Manchester “The stories I had heard, which I thought were myths, were very, very true” Before I moved to London I spent almost five years in a monogamous relationship and I was very happy. I never had gay friends, I never went on the scene, and I had never touched any drug other than weed. When my relationship ended I moved to Clapham to start a new life. I spent the first six months fighting the friends I had made who did ‘stuff’. I said I wouldn’t touch it. It wasn’t me. This all changed after my birthday weekend last year when I was offered meth and G after a heavy night of drinking. I can’t tell you why I felt that was the right time to do it but I just did it. The next memory I have was me on my knees in a kitchen giving oral sex to a man I didn’t know. I remember him commenting how hungry I was for cock and this made him hard. All the while he had an iPad pointing at my face. My friend next to him was on Grindr and a guy next to me was also giving oral to his friend. The men just kept coming and going in the flat, different groups of men. Some spoke English, some didn’t. I looked around and realised people were fucking, smoking, snorting. My name was called. “You need to drink this to stay here with us all,” I was told. I drank it. “Snort this,” ok. I did. Some guys went in a bathroom with my friend. I remember seeing the door close and a guy bent over the sink and another guy with a hand near his arse. I eventually figured out he was pushing meth up his arse. I remember seeing my friend fucking bareback on a sofa and there was shit dripping from him. “Help me,” he screamed. I ran with a line of meth and told him to take it. He seemed in pain, the other guy didn’t seem to care. He told me to go away – so I did. After a while I started to gain my senses. I noticed a guy I knew from the local gay club was on the sofa. He picked up a bottle and drank something which made everyone freak out. They rushed him to the toilet and they forced him to vomit. Minutes later they emerged and he lay on the sofa and he fell asleep. They started slapping him and punching him but he didn’t respond. I didn’t know him at all but I could tell something was wrong. Nobody seemed to care and yet they knew him. I thought, well if they don’t care I do and I’ll sit here and make sure he is OK. He started to breathe weirdly, slow and raspy, then he started to convulse. They tried to wake him but they couldn’t. He wouldn’t move or wake. He started to vomit while asleep. They got him on the floor and but he stopped breathing. Eventually they called an ambulance. We were all rushed into the main bedroom so we couldn’t be seen. The medics arrived. They put paddles on him and rushed him out of the flat. I watched from behind the blinds while guys tried to touch me. After they left we were allowed out of the bedroom. Two guys started to fuck on the sofa he was on. They said I needed to do another shot or I should leave as I was ‘ruining the atmosphere’. I grabbed my shoes and clothes and walked outside. I wondered where I was. It felt like I was in another world. The stories I had heard, which I thought were myths, were very, very, true. It should have stopped me from doing meth again but it didn’t, though I promised myself that I’d never touch G again. I asked my friend to get me more meth. Soon I was using it every week. I then met more friends that had just started doing it. It felt great but dirty. We went to two or three more chillouts over that summer and I started to do stuff every weekend. Each Thursday I would have a ‘delivery’ that would keep me going till Sunday. I’d dance, party, go clubbing, not eat, talk trash but feel great. I was now in a never-ending cycle of chemsex and chillouts and I didn’t know how to stop it. I felt hollow and fantastic at the same time. In the months that followed I ended up in messed up relationships with other men who were deep in the chemsex scene. I ended up in hospital with pneumonia. I nearly lost my job, had constant colds and a runny nose. I knew I couldn’t give up the stuff as much as I wanted to - all my friends, my entire life were doing the same as me. The turning point for me was when I made a friend though a party, a really close friend. We shared our stories of pain, how close we had come to self-destruction and the ones who had destroyed themselves around us. We broke away and kept the weekends to ourselves. I never felt more happy. I reached that bliss of somebody who was on my wavelength. I had found my soul mate, I told her and vice versa. Now she is off to travel for eight months and I am scared I am going to fall back into the world of chillouts and chemsex. I prompted myself to write this to wake myself up and keep track of what to do to fix this all and not repeat the past year. I can’t go down that dark path again. What do I do? I am not a bad person – I just want to escape this. SUPPORT The Code Clinic: A sexual health and support clinic, run by 56 Dean Street and London Friend, for gay men into the harder sex scene and/or who use drugs for sex (chemsex). For more information, visit www.code-clinic.co.uk. Get to know Meth Crystal meth (or Tina as it is sometimes known) is increasingly commonly used by gay men for sex. It’s a powerful stimulant which keeps you awake for a very long time and makes you feel all-powerful, very horny and highly compulsive. If you are not focused on sex, it can make you extremely focused on other things, to the point where even taking your computer apart can seem like the most important thing in the world. Tina is made up of speed and various household cleaning products and comes in the shape of ice-like crystals or as a powder. It is usually smoked through a pipe, snorted, eaten or injected and the effects can last between two hours and two days. How does crystal meth affect my health? The main reason why Tina is so popular with gay men for sex is the fact that it makes people feel really horny. It can make you feel like you are the hottest porn stud on the planet for days on end. Sounds perfect but, unfortunately, Tina is also known to significantly reduce your inhibitions which can lead you to have unsafe sex and expose you to STIs, including HIV and hep C. If you share needles to inject Tina you also risk injecting HIV or hep C directly into your bloodstream. Because Tina keeps you awake for many hours, you can experience mild hallucinations or think you hear whispers which can become more profound the more regularly you take the drug. Tina withdrawal symptoms can include short-lived psychosis (a few days after you’ve stopped using), insomnia, irritable moods and depression. It can also have a negative impact on your immune system and metabolism. Often users get a sensation of insects crawling on their skin and can scratch their skin so hard that they end up wounding themselves. Can I mix crystal meth with alcohol and other drugs? Many people mix Tina with alcohol and other drugs with little side effects but you have to be aware that the more stimulants you take the more pressure you are putting on your heart. Some people may experience panic attacks whilst others may have no adverse effects at all. If you are mixing Tina with G, you could be awake for a very long time, become tired and find it harder to dose your G correctly. This can lead to overdoses. If you are HIV-positive you may also forget to take your medication if you get too high, which can impact on your health and make you more infectious to your sexual partners. Getting high can also affect the choices you make around your sexual behaviour. What do I need to know if I am planning to take crystal meth? If you are planning to take Tina, it’s important to know that it is a very powerful drug which is likely to fog your judgement. At the very least it is advisable to set yourself some boundaries before you start your bender and think about what you want to do, how long you want to stay awake for and what your limits are with regard to safer sex. You can refer to these once you are in the grip of the high. Tina can blur the choices we make around sex making us forget to do it safely, or finding it harder to care in the heat of the moment. Every week clinics are filled with crystal meth users asking for PEP because they have had risky sex while high on Tina. If you choose to inject it, make sure you get clean needles and equipment and learn how to use these correctly. Using clean needles and equipment is important to protect yourself from HIV and hep C. All UK drug services are happy to provide advice as well as clean equipment. If you have shared needles with someone you suspect to be HIV-positive, it is advisable to visit your sexual health clinic or A&E for a course of PEP. If you are using crystal meth regularly, take calcium and multi-vitamin supplements and keep an eye on your body weight. Sometimes the Tina high can get so strong that some people start to fetishise things like mixing blood or semen, so once again make sure you set your boundaries before you get high. For more information, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/crystal-meth.