‘chemsex’_ doctors worry about days-long, drug-fueled orgies with ‘an average of five partners’ – the washington post


Danny Pintauro in 2004. (Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

It’s perhaps obvious that having unprotected sex on drugs over multiple days with multiple partners might not be good for one’s health. In fact, in September, former child star Danny Pintauro told Oprah Winfrey that he contracted HIV during a drug-fueled encounter with a man whose name he did not know.

“Just paint a picture for me,” Winfrey said. “You’re doing

crystal meth … swinging from the chandeliers, having sex for days?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Pintauro — who said he “truly thought” he was “being safe” during the incident and is now an HIV activist — said.

[ Danny Pintauro, ‘Who’s the Boss?’ child star, reveals he got HIV while on crystal meth]

Now, an editorial in the prestigious British Medical Journal has weighed in on what, across the pond, is called “chemsex.” And the BMJ has said, more or less, that chemsex is really quite dangerous.

“Chemsex drug users often describe ‘losing days’ — not sleeping or eating for up to 72 hours — and this may harm their general health,” the editorial, signed by three members of the National Health Service, read. “Users may present [symptoms] too late to be eligible for post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV transmission. An increased number of sexual partners may also increase the risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections.”

The conditions of and number of partners in some chemsex sessions — defined as “intentional sex under the influence of psychoactive drugs, mostly among men who have sex with men” — were bacchanalian.

“Data from service users suggest an average of five sexual partners per session and that unprotected sex is the norm,” the editorial read.

The drugs singled out in the editorial were mephedrone (also known as “meow meow”) , GHB, GBL and crystal meth.


“People engaging in chemsex report better sex, with these drugs reducing inhibitions and increasing pleasure,” the editorial read. “They facilitate sustained arousal and induce a feeling of instant rapport with sexual partners. Some users report using them to manage negative feelings, such as a lack of confidence and self esteem, internalised homophobia, and stigma about their HIV status.”

When these substances combine with promiscuity and a less-than-rigorous safe-sex practices, the outcome can spell public-health disaster. One study cited in the editorial of more than 1,100 men who have sex with men found just around a fifth reported chemsex within the past five years and a 10th within the past four weeks. But, as one in eight gay men in London have HIV according to a recent study, a minority population engaging in risky behavior can put everyone in danger, particularly when getting them the information and treatment they need is difficult. The authors of the editorial criticized the lack of data about chemsex and lack of funding for programs to fight it.

“Addressing chemsex related morbidities should be a public health priority,” they wrote.

In a telephone interview, Hannah McCall , a senior nurse of genitourinary medicine/sexual and reproductive health at the Central and Northwest London NHS Foundation Trust and one of the editorial’s authors, cautioned against trying to stop chemsex.

“I wouldn’t call it outlandish behavior,” she said. “A lot of people having chemsex make informed decisions, just as people using alcohol make informed decisions.”

The problem for health officials, she said, is to reach out to participants to make sure they know the risks and can protect themselves — particularly as other communities may take up the practice.

“A lot of drug trends start in gay men’s community and spread to mainstream society,” she said. “… I wouldn’t be surprised if it is already happening.”

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