“Like a kid discovering Disney”: sex, transgression and overdoses… diving into chemsex evenings

“Like a kid discovering Disney”: sex, transgression and overdoses… diving into chemsex evenings

In addition to the risks of overdose or sexually transmitted diseases, chemsex can cause intense fatigue, with effects of depression, anxiety and paranoia.

Orange juice and sweets, unlimited drugs and naked men for "unbridled sex"… David, Julien, Hugo and Alexandre reveal chemsex evenings to AFP, practical booming sexual activity in the gay community despite the risk of sometimes fatal overdoses.

The principle of these "chem plans": men meet, mainly online, and meet for sexual relations with others at home, where all types of psychoactive substances are sniffed, ingested, injected, in order to increase desire and sensations, several days in a row.< /p>

"The sex there is crazy, unbridled: it's of course linked to drugs but also to all the fantasies which, ;with a single blow, they are satisfied. There is a pleasurable side to transgression and a side I do like in porn films", explains in a soft voice David, a 54-year-old psychologist working near Bordeaux . With a slightly bald head, this fifty-year-old, in a relationship for two years, has been attending these evenings for around fifteen years.

"It'was an opening in relation to my religious and sexual education and the idea of ​​"being a couple& quot; instilled by my family", tells David who, at 15, left his parents' home to escape a violent father. "With the chemsex evenings, a world of all possibilities opened up to me, where sex wasn't just for two people, it was so exciting!' quot;

"Like a kid at Disney"

"When you arrive, you undress and you have to immediately get into the action. During breaks, we smoke a cigarette, we share an orange juice, some candy… but there is never alcohol because it can be dangerous with certain drugs' quot;, said David.

Hugo, 42 years old, supermarket employee from Marseille, recounts how during "two intense years" he plunged in "an extraordinary world" on weekends. "There is a side of wonder, like a kid discovering Disney. You socialize, you sleep with the best people, you meet more people… It lowers the barriers, there's no judgment, no criticism", confides the forty-year-old.

"I was on a little cloud, another world, without coming down. That was all I was thinking about. On Monday, I was already thinking about Friday. I had an addiction to the atmosphere, it was like going to the casino, I needed my dose of thrill."< /p>

Fatal overdoses

But the adventure can quickly go wrong. This is evidenced by five overdoses linked to chemsex in March-April in the city of Bordeaux alone, three of which were fatal. Investigators must "continue to investigate in order to see if these three deaths are an unfortunate coincidence or if a particularly toxic product is circulating", explains to AFP the public prosecutor, Frédérique Porterie.

Often purchased on the internet and delivered to the mailbox, the drugs are difficult to trace: cathinones like 3-MMC and 4-MEC (stimulating products), ketamine (euphoric) or even GBL, over-the-counter automobile cleaner which, once ingested, degrades into GHB (disinhibiting and relaxing)…

"The practice has become democratized. There is a national trend towards the development of this type of recreational drugs, confirms a police source. "It often comes from the Netherlands, you can order these products on the darknet.

Chemsex, a term from the words "chemicals" (chemicals) and "sex", first appeared in Anglo-Saxon countries Saxons, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, in the 2000s. In France, its growth occurred in the 2010s, underlines a report by Professor Amine Benyamina, addictologist psychiatrist at Public Assistance – Paris Hospitals (AP-HP).

But the quantification of the phenomenon remains "complex", specifies this document dating from 2022 submitted to the Ministry of Health. It "could concern around 20% of MSM (men who have sex with other men, Editor's note), or potentially 100,000 to 200,000 people in France. "Initially very urban", it is also found "in rural areas", with a "rejuvenation of profiles", specifies the report.

According to figures from the Aides association, 90% of practitioners are homosexual men and 10% of other profiles. Chemsex is also documented among heterosexual swingers and fans of "rave parties" ("teuffeurs").

"Getting through"

In Bordeaux, around 10 a.m., it's time for the opening of Crunch, a male sauna and night bar. The staff cleans the dance floor, the jacuzzi and, in the basement, the "backrooms", private cabins with beds, broadcast of porn films and lubricant dispensers. Several awareness signs remind us that narcotics are prohibited.

Drug users, "it's difficult to spot them at the entrance", recognizes co-manager Jess Royan, 48, who sometimes finds "syringes in the cabins". "Today, a guy who doesn'doesn't take it almost seems not normal", continues this porn actor with a shaved head, t-shirt bodycon and tribal tattoos.

"Once a week" or "once a month& quot;, a client under the influence of narcotics feels unwell, he notes. "The guy falls and we have to call the fire brigade. The mixture of drugs, alcohol, heat, noise…"

Julien, David's 42-year-old companion, "played with fire", in a context where absolute letting go is required. "For my generation, which has access to PrEP (preventive pill for people very exposed to HIV, Editor's note), we say to ourselves "Come on, go ahead, have fun without condoms", says the forty-year-old from Orléans.

"I even sometimes had sex without PrEP and with people who were HIV positive", he said, aware of his "luck to have made it through".

Today unemployed, this son of a worker who left around 16 years old from a family where he did not find his place confides , upset, having been bitten without his knowledge at a chemsex party: "I fell into a blackout".

Loss of consciousness

Alexandre, 31, also suffered this phenomenon of loss of consciousness and memory. This Franco-Moroccan with round glasses and a finely trimmed beard, former manager of Bordeaux night establishments undergoing professional retraining, began consuming products around ten years ago, sometimes participating in chemsex evenings.

One evening, "very tipsy", he accidentally mixes alcohol and GHB left at the bottom of the bottle. a glass: "It only took a micro-drop, a bottom, for me to make a G-Hole. I felt it coming, the tingling… I had the presence of mind to tell my friend that it wasn't right, I went to the room and I slept for eight hours", he says.

To avoid this phenomenon, it is necessary to note the times each person takes and watch over others, adds Hugo, who describes evenings sometimes "without kindness", between "perversity" and opportunistic participants "who have difficulty having sex& quot; elsewhere.

In addition to the risks of overdose or sexually transmitted diseases, chemsex can cause intense fatigue, with effects of depression, anxiety and paranoia. Especially when it comes to populations "well integrated" socially and unaccustomed to drugs, analyzes Jean-Michel Delile, addictologist psychiatrist, president of the Addiction Federation. These practitioners "underestimate the dangerousness and the risk of hanging on", he judges.

“The brain wants more”

At first, according to him, some practitioners may consume as a “help to act”, against a backdrop of”“self-stigmatization with regard to homosexuality”. But “an abysmal gap” is created between their initial motivation and “the reality they have arrived at”: no longer have sex and seek above all to take products.

"I have known seven people who died more or less directly because of these products in Bordeaux over the last five years. Either overdose or suicide…", testifies Alexandre, who still practices occasionally but in a less "unhinged" way.

"As soon as we have tickled the little "pleasure" box, the brain always asks for more, even if it means breaking social barriers, cutting yourself off from work, lying to your family" , he said, deploring the'"omerta" which reigns among the practitioners, reluctant to call for help if you feel unwell for fear of being blamed.

Hence the importance of medical and associative monitoring, such as digital marauding which alerts users to the dangers involved. "Justice saved my life", admits Hugo, placed on an electronic bracelet for violating drug legislation. "Only justice could help me get through this given what I took to last for three days straight."

David and Julien are followed by a reception and support center for risk reduction for drug users, in order to "calm things down".

"We may have been too excessive", admits David. "We come back to more basic things, which consist of enjoying life in a way other than through sex and drugs. We reduced our consumption. Rather than dropping 300 euros on drugs, we prefer to go to Barcelona, he concludes.

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