Chemsex: how to stay safer and get back in control

Finding it hard to keep a balance? Find ways to stay safer and regain control when participating in chemsex.

Staying safe and getting back in control

When it comes to chems and partying, a bit of preparation and some simple boundaries will help to reduce harm.

It may be time to make some changes if:

  • the chems are starting to harm your mental or physical health
  • your work or relationships are starting to suffer
  • you’re taking bigger risks when you’re high
  • you’re starting to take chems more often

It’s all about baby steps

Big ambitions like “giving up chems” are important, but they can be overwhelming.

Breaking big things down into smaller goals will help you to get there one step at a time.

With each step forward, you’ll get a sense of achievement that will motivate you to do more.

Getting back in control after chemsex

Here are a few suggestions – try them out and see what works best for you.

Take a weekend off

If you’re partying every weekend and it’s starting to take its toll,  taking a week off now and then can be a great way to regain control. 

  • Think about spending time with supportive friends or family who can keep you busy, so you're less tempted to party or use
  • Fill your time with activities you enjoy, like hobbies or working out
  • It's also helpful to steer clear of apps or situations that trigger your urge to party
  • Ask someone you trust to help you stay on track

If you need some extra support with planning your weekend, you can talk to us online.

Manage your apps

Hook-up apps can be addictive in the same way as drugs, alcohol and gambling.

All those notifications and messages light up the same reward centres in your brain.

To help break your app habit:

  • Track how long you spend on them – most phones show you how long you’re spending on your apps. Use this information to gradually reduce your time on hook-up apps, for example, by 30 minutes a week
  • Set screen time limits – you can limit how long you spend on particular apps each day. See the 56 Dean Street website for tips on how to set screen time limits
  • Take a break – even taking a day off now and again can help to break old habits. Perhaps ask a friend to put a child lock on your hook-up apps and only give you the PIN after a set period of time

Stay safe when camming

Meeting up with people online via camming or social media platforms can be a safer option than face-to-face meet ups.

But bear in mind that you’re at greater risk if you overdose when you’re on your own.

If you feel unwell or have any mental health problems while camming, come offline and get medical help immediately.

Mix things up a bit

Rather than trying to cut down on the partying, try a different approach.

Think about how you can spend more time doing other things, instead.

Would you consider making sober sex a part of your life again? How about doing some dating? Do you have friends you can have fun and be intimate with in a non-sexual way? Perhaps you could spend more time with family?

You could also consider attending some online fellowship meetings, such as Crystal Meth Anonymous. You don’t need to be abstinent to attend. You just have to want to stop using.

If your life is full of other things that feed you, you may find that the party scene starts to lose its hold on you.

Don’t self-medicate through the withdrawals

Plenty of people manage to use chems strictly as part of their weekend fun.

It’s a red flag if you find you’re starting to rely on drugs like benzos or a bit of G to get you through the comedown as well.

Using drugs to get to sleep, raise your mood or as a pick-me-up through the week raises your risk of problematic drug use.

Remember – it’s normal to feel rubbish after a weekend of chems and no sleep. You just need to get through it.

Distract yourself from cravings

If partying and chems are a regular part of your life, you may find yourself getting cravings or urges to use even when you’ve decided not to.

Cravings may feel unmanageable, but they are only thoughts and feelings and you can push through them.

The trick is to plan ways to distract yourself before they come.

Staying safe during chemsex

If you’re looking for information on how to stay safer during chemsex, here are some suggestions you can try.

Plan ahead

If you don’t know who you’re going to be playing with, try to go with a friend or someone you trust. Or at least let someone know where you’re going.

Make sure you have everything you need to stay safe and comfortable – measuring equipment, drinks, condoms and so on – before you party and play.

Last but not least, make sure you build in enough recovery time. Stock up the fridge and clear your diary. 

Set some boundaries

Know your boundaries and stick to them as much as you can.

Think about how long you want a session to last and set limits for how much you’ll use.

Also, think about how you’ll communicate your boundaries to other people.

Ideally, you will know who you’re going to be playing with and agree things like using condoms and PrEP in advance.

Know your dose

Chems carry a high level of risk. Make sure you know your doses and stick to them.

Don’t be tempted to push your limits just because it’s a “big” weekend.

If you get some extra supplies from your dealer, leave whatever you don’t need at home out of temptation’s way.

Don’t try to keep up with other people or be pressured into taking more than you usually do.

It’s especially important to measure the correct amount of G with a pipette. Because it’s harder to get the dose right, it’s easier to overdose (go under).

Time your doses of G carefully too. Perhaps take a screenshot of the time on your phone each time you dose yourself as a reminder.

Don’t mix your drugs

Mixing your drugs carries more risk and makes it harder for you to stay in control.

It’s especially important not to mix G with other depressant drugs like alcohol, ketamine or benzos. Doing this significantly raises your risk of going under.

If you use G to level yourself out after a hit of crystal, make sure you only take your usual dose.

Administer your own drugs

Always bring along your own equipment for measuring and administering your drugs.

Make a point of knowing what you’re taking and try not to let anyone else inject you. If they do, make sure you know what’s in the barrel and how much.

If you’re slamming it’s helpful to use coloured barrels so you know which is yours when you want to go again.

You can get these free from any needle and syringe service.

Keep taking your meds

If you’re on regular meds, such as ART, PrEP or hepatitis (hep) C treatment, make sure you’re taking them as you should.

Bear in mind that some meds, including some anti-virals, can affect how your body processes chems, making them work slower or quicker.

If your liver is under pressure from hep C or other liver problems, this can also affect how your body processes chems.

Although PrEP protects you against HIV, you still need to use condoms. This protects you from other infections, including viruses spread through blood like hepatitis C.

It’s important to go for STI screenings every three months if you’re using PrEP.

Start small

Drugs can affect your body in different ways at different times. You can be taken by surprise even if you’re careful with your doses.

Start by taking slightly less than you would normally so you can “warm up” safely.

Consider smoking, snorting or eating rather than slamming to give yourself more control.

Never share equipment

Sharing equipment raises your risk of blood viruses like hep C and HIV.

To protect yourself, take your own equipment to every party or chillout, including pipes, pipettes and measures, and never share.

You can get all the clean equipment you need for a session, including lube and condoms, from any needle and syringe service so don’t be shy to ask.

You can write down a list of everything you need and hand it over if you’re nervous about asking for it.

Know where you’re getting your drugs from

As with all drugs the strength and quality of chems can vary a lot.

If possible, always stick to the same supplier so you know what you’re dealing with.

When to call an ambulance

Call 999 for an ambulance if you or anyone else:

  • loses consciousness
  • is in a confused state
  • has seizures (fits)
  • has pains in their chest
  • is having difficulty breathing