Drug and alcohol

Alcohol

For some individuals their alcohol and/or drug use can negatively impact their sex life and increase the sexual risks that they take. This may, for example, be by not using a condom whilst under the influence or having sexual contact with multiple partners whilst under the influence.

Drinking too much can also affect your long term health and general well-being (as well as other people around you). Some signs that you may be drinking too much might include:

  • You often feel the need or urge to have a drink
  • You get into trouble or have or cause accidents because of your drinking
  • You forget what’s happened when you have been drinking
  • Other people are concerned or warn you about how much you're drinking
  • Not doing what is expected of you because of drinking such as being late for work

Take the self-assessment to see if alcohol is (or at risk of becoming) a problem for you.

Working out how much you drink in units can be tricky. These websites include a helpful guide to calculate your intake.

  • https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-support-services/
  • https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/alcohol-units.aspx
  • If your self-assessment has identified a problem or you think you have a problem with alcohol, admitting so is the first step to addressing it. The below sites offer a range of supportive information and services.

    Counselling styles such as Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have a strong evidence base and have been proven to be effective in reducing sexual risks and instilling positive behaviour change; please attend your local sexual health service and ask to speak to a Health Adviser / Psychologist or see your GP if you are interested

    UK guidelines offer some good advice for men or women who do drink alcohol regularly, but want to cut down and keep health risks low

    • Do not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis (men and women). If you do drink above this level spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days.
    • One or two heavy drinking bouts per week increases your risk of death from long term illness and from accidents and injuries.
    • The more you drink the higher the risk of developing some cancers eg (mouth, throat and breast)
    • If you wish to cut down the amount you drink, try to have several drink-free days each week.

    Drugs

    For some individuals their drug and/or alcohol use can negatively impact their sex life and increase the sexual risks that they take. This may, for example, be by not using a condom whilst under the influence or having sexual contact with multiple partners whilst under the influence. Drug use can also affect your physical health and general well-being (as well as other people around you).

    http://drugsmeter.com/ is a helpful tool to assess whether drug use is already, or is becoming a problem for you.

    If you think you have a problem with your level of drug use, admitting so is the first step to addressing it. The below sites offer a range of supportive information and services.

    Counselling styles such as Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy have a strong evidence base and have been proven to be effective in reducing sexual risks and instilling positive behaviour change; please attend your local sexual health service and ask to speak to a Health Adviser / Psychologist or see your GP if you are interested

    Chemsex

    “Chemsex” is often a term used by men who have sex with men (MSMs) to describe sex whilst under the influence of drugs (chems), in order to facilitate and/or enhance sex. Unlike recreational drug use chemsex usually involves the use of one or a combination of the following drugs:

    • METHAMPHETAMINE (CRYSTAL / CRYSTAL METH / TINA) - This substance is a Class A drug and can lower inhibitions, which can lead to users taking risks that they wouldn’t normally take, such as having unsafe sex. It's very addictive, and some research suggests it can cause brain damage over time. It can also make you feel agitated and paranoid and can cause raised heart rate and blood pressure.
    • MEPHEDRONE (MEPH / DRONE) - This substance is a Class B drug but was previously a “legal high”. It is similar to an amphetamine which makes users feel euphoric and affectionate. It can overstimulate your heart and nervous system. Mephedrone is normally snorted like cocaine, but it can also be swallowed, smoked and injected. Those using it report feeling sick, anxious and paranoid and may vomit or get headaches. Other risks include hallucinations, insomnia, reduced appetite, dizziness and sweating.
    • GHB / GBL (G, GINA) – these substances are Class C drugs and are reported to have a relaxing, anaesthetic effect which reduces users' inhibitions. GHB and GBL take the form of an oily liquid, or capsules, which are swallowed, both drugs are very dangerous and can be fatal, especially when used with alcohol. It can be difficult to know how much of the drug you are taking so it is easy to overdose. Risks include coma, unconsciousness or death. Those taking it can also become helpless when taking the drug so are at risk of sexual assault.

    These three substances, especially in combination, can make users feel relaxed and aroused. Chemsex commonly refers to sex that can sometimes last several days. There is little need for sleep or food. The heightened sexual focus enables more extreme sex, for longer, often with more partners and with less fear of STIs including HIV and HCV. “Slamming” or injecting is common when using chems and this carries its own risk including Hepatitis C and HIV.

    Some tips offered by counsellors include:

    • Get screened for STIs regularly including HIV and Hepatitis
    • Don’t let someone else inject you
    • Play with someone you trust if possible, as your judgment can be dramatically impaired on chems
    • Establish a set of boundaries while sober about what you are not prepared to do sexually and with chems, that you can refer to later when high
    • Don’t play for too long – paranoia and hallucinations can be common on your second day awake
    • Do not share needles, or other injecting equipment. Clean needles can be obtained from needle exchanges. If you aren’t aware of all safer injecting practices please speak to a drugs adviser in-clinic
    • Don’t play too regularly if you want to avoid depression, weight loss, and psychological dependence.
    • Ensure you spend time having sober sex and enjoying non-sexual recreation