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The rise of gay chemsex parties involving libido-enhancing drugs

I read with interest the article by Matt Cain called “The rise of gay chemsex parties involving libido-enhancing drugs”, in The Independent Newspaper, Saturday 17th October 2015.

As a Clinical Psychologist, I thought I would share some of my reflections on the work I have done with the gay men who have come to see me for therapy because they were worried about chemsex.

All my clients have had one thing in common: they have talked about loneliness as one of the emotional pushes towards chemsex.  This does not surprise me as one of the most robust findings in decades of psychological research is that the absence of close and confiding relationships can have a big negative impact upon psychological well-being.   I have noticed through the conversations with my clients that whilst they recognise the negative impact of chemsex on their physical and psychological well-being, they also talk about the many ways it give them something such as taking them away from difficult feelings such as loneliness, worthlessness or depression, or say it can feel affirming, or that they meet a wide range of people, as if there is something freeing about it.

Some of my clients have also talked about chemsex as a place where they can feel at ease with other men free from worries that they will judged as not good enough.  I am interested in the idea expressed in the article that the main driver behind chemsex in gay men is a desire to self-destruct.  I have not in my own clinical experience come across a gay man where I thought they really wanted to self-destruct.  I have certainly met many who perhaps because of unresolved issues such as pain or anger about past events or people in their lives, particularly romantic rejection, find it hard to look after themselves at times, and during chemsex may act as if they are neglecting themselves.

At the same time I have usually found that through chemsex they are trying to get their needs for intimacy or emotional regulation met, but in ways that end up being limiting or harmful to them.   I have also found that many of them will show that they care about what happens to them as they often start Pep or Prep because of chemsex.  My own view for what it is worth is that in order to overcome problems with chemsex the emotional and need meeting reasons behind it need to be understood to make changes, and this is the way I approach this work with my clients in this area.


Dr Robert Watson, Clinical Psychologist, 20th October 2015