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Chemsex: how to get back in control

If the partying and chems have got out of hand we’re here to help you get back on track.

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.

How to set realistic goals

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

Get some support

For expert advice around chems and chemsex chat to us online now or visit our online LGBTQ+ drop-in every Wednesday at 11-7pm.

Take a weekend off

If you’re partying every weekend and it’s starting to take its toll, a week off now and again can help you break the cycle and feel more in control.

It’s important to plan ahead. Think about what you’ll do instead.

Who will you spend time with? How will you distract yourself from urges to party or use? How will you avoid hook-up apps and other triggers that feed your urges? Who can you ask to support you?

If you need 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.

How to break a habit

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 crap after a weekend of chems and no sleep. You just need to get through it.

For healthier ways to care for yourself, watch David Stuart of 56 Dean Street talk about coping with comedowns.

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.

You could:

Try different things and find out what works for you.

See more advice on how to handle cravings.