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Sex & Dating

Chemsex Linked to Love and Emotional Attachment


Is loneliness to blame for rising drug use among gay men? 

The rising practice of chemsex has welcomed new stigmas around sex parties and drug use. Often thought to be an act of freedom, fun, or rebellion, a French study printed in the latest issue of Contemporary Drug Problems suggests that many young men who have chemsex are on a deep search for love and emotional bonding with other men.

Based on an immersion of two gay dating sites and 25 in-depth interviews with gay guys who use drugs in Paris and Lyon, researchers saw several recurring themes among those who practice chemsex — mainly the absence or present search for love.

“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,” lead researcher Romain Amaro explained. “But romantic relationships can also provide crucial symbolic and material support to place limits on drug use in ways that reduce harm.”

Gay couples who slammed (or injected drugs) often did it together, according to research. Contrastingly, single gay men who practicied chemsex were usually introduced to it following a breakup or at the beginning of an aggressive relationship with a drug-using partner.

For those who had suffered from a serious breakup prior to their drug use, many claimed drugs were a way to “free” themselves sexually from their monogamous relationship. 

Much like Amaro, playwright Peter Darney also interviewed gay men on Grindr and other sites about chemsex, which was the springboard for his play 5 Guys Chillin’.

As Plus reported, 5 Guys Chillin’ centered around five guys at a sex party in London, each with their own hang ups around sex and drug addiction. The play was inspired by interviews and nearly 50 hours of material.

Unsurprisingly, the storylines of the play mirrored the experiences of men in Amaro’s study.

The men in the study were between the ages of 23 and 30, and while 14 of them were involved in slamming, the other 11 engaged in other aspects of the chemsex scene, Aids Map reports. Several of them were also HIV-positive.

One man, 28-year old Gaspard, had two periods where he went through heavy drug use: one after he discovered he was HIV-positive, and another immediately following an intense breakup. Another man, 23-year old Jules, described a “romantic fusion,” Aids Map reports, during a drug session.

“I met my ex, with whom I stayed almost six months,” Jules shared. “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.”

Some men also described their drug use as a way to cope with loneliness and boredom. One stated that because he had a lot of time to spare, hooking up and drug use, were a way to pass the time.

But why the association between romance or searching for love and drug use? According to Amaro, it’s quite complicated: “By examining the subjective, emotional, and relational rationales that underlie slamming,” he explains in the study, “I show how young gay men navigate between caring for their health and their emotional ties with other men.”

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David Artavia