Researchers from Sigma Research recently argued in the International Journal of Drug Policy that as social norms influence health-related behavior, health advisors should challenge the idea that drug use and chemsex are widespread in the gay community. In fact, surveys show that gay men who use drugs during sex are actually a small minority.
While research validifies a visible link between chemsex and the deep search for love and emotional attachment, as Plus reported, it's important to be wary when associating it as normative behavior.
As reported by AIDS Map, researchers from Public Health England interviewed 519 men throughout 2013 and 2014, and found that only 12 percent of men had sex under the influence of recreational drugs — 10 percent being mephedrone, 7 percent GHB/GBL, and 7 percent marijuana.
Data from Sigma Research displayed similar results. By far, chemsex showed to be most prevalent in cities like London, Brighton, and Manchester, as well as with men who are HIV-positive. But even then the numbers were small.
In London, for example, 14 percent of all men in London practiced chemsex recently, including 22 percent of all HIV-positive men. Three percent of all men living London reported to inject their drugs, including 11 percent of HIV-positive men.
Furthermore, it is argued that social norms have much to do with how a person decides whether or not they should use drugs in the first place. The more “normalized” behaviors appear to be in certain groups, the more likely it is someone will experiment, which is why it’s important to be aware of false perceptions.
If the perception is that most gay/bisexual men practice chemsex, we’re more likely to see this type of behavior become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“The perception that most gay men in South London are participating in chemsex contradicts survey data measuring its actual prevalence,” researchers said to AIDS Map. “They argue that health promotion interventions should challenge social norms relating to drug use and chemsex. Social norms interventions focus on correcting false consensus by providing believable information on actual behaviours (what members of a group actually do). A social norms intervention in London could potentially attend to misperceptions regarding the ubiquity of chemsex.”