For the psychiatrist, who works in parallel on behalf of the association Addictions France, this increasingly visible phenomenon can be explained after two years of health crisis and drastic restrictions. The consequences for patients are catastrophic.
Experiments can last several hours or even days. Such a duration is only possible by multiplying the drugs.
Where does chemsex come from and what is it?
Frederic Antuna. It comes to us from Anglo-Saxon gay culture. The term is only the contraction of two English words, “chemical” [chimique] and “sex” and says its name well. In the context of sexual relations, sometimes with several partners, it is summarized in the taking of psychoactive substances and aims to increase the intensity and duration of carnal pleasures: increased endurance, libido… The inhibition of partners is strongly diminished and the experience sought is increased tenfold. At the end of the 2010s, these practices remained marginal, in certain Parisian circles and a few large cities in France.
In 2020, we see that serious cases of addiction have tripled at the national level and no longer concerns only the gay community. Therefore, with the trivialization of certain products, it is normal to see these risky practices arrive in the smallest towns, as is now the case in Charente, Angoulême or Cognac. Dating applications have largely contributed to popularizing the practice, especially since confinement.
In the cases you have observed, how do you assess the risks of the practice?
Already, the simple taking of narcotics constitutes risk-taking for the body. On the other hand, it is the context that is particular here. We sometimes have to deal with young people who have very little experience in the field of love and whose affective life is very meager. Without landmarks, the emotional shock is very great. The narcotics then act as multipliers and ultimately, if the practice is repeated, as a refuge. In the end, if we sum up, young people have sex only under the influence and prefer to repeat these experiences for fear of losing intensity or simply no longer succeeding.
The other aggravating factor is the accumulation of substances that some patients I deal with report. In Cognac, testimonies speak of experiences that can last several hours, even several days. Such a duration is only possible by multiplying the drugs. However, a single dose of cathinone, a powerful stimulant, can be fatal, in combination with GHB and alcohol. Alcohol is moreover very often systematically present, as one of the first access points.
Finally, another major risk remains the very significant risks of sexually transmitted diseases in a context where all vigilance falls.
Chemsex multiplies risky behavior. We then imagine that the support is not quite the same for these new patients.
Already, the phenomenon is brand new in Charente. Professionals must take the time to inform themselves and to read the specialized literature because chemsex is not known as it is: the new followers themselves do not necessarily mention it in these terms. I myself had to follow certain training courses. On the other hand, chemsex also involves different practices. When the injection of stimulants is done intravenously in the context, always, of sexual relations, we then speak of “slam”. We are still passing a course in the dramatic consequences for health.
So that’s the big unknown…
Also, the follow-up must be above all medical. Then, the accompaniment is done in the long term because we do not know how the patients will evolve. Young people who build their sexuality through the consumption of products, we have no idea what this can produce as future damage. It’s no longer the 1970s and the yé-yé. Drugs today are getting stronger, more addictive, and cheaper. Some are available between 5 and 20 euros per gram. Neurological disorders will certainly be accentuated in the years to come.
Within the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), the TREND systems (Recent Trends and New Drugs) focus on groups that use psychoactive products. If the practices of chemsex were reported for the first time in Lille and Metz in 2017, Bordeaux observers alert on “the increasingly uninhibited nature of exchanges around chemsex practices on social networks”. This considerably complicates the identification of the phenomenon, especially among younger audiences. The regional figures from the Regional Coordination Committee for the fight against infection due to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (COREVIH) of New Aquitaine are instructive. They report 22 cases of comas, 11 cases of seroconversion and 57% of patients questioned report episodes of behavioral violence during these famous games. Moreover, 36% of the followers observed are victims of paranoid disorders after an experience of chemsex. The extent of the phenomenon is such that the Bordeaux University Hospital has launched its Chemsex Awareness Days since 2019, repeated every year since.