Introduction Recreational drug use is higher in men who have sex with men (MSM) with use of psychoactive drugs facilitating group sex sessions (chemsex). Public health implications include increased sexual risk taking with potential for HIV/STI transmission and associated physical and mental health harms. Our aims were to assess the extent of chemsex in the North East of England to inform local/national policy and tailor service provision.
Methods A regional self-administrated survey was conducted in five sexual health/HIV care providers and a local LGBT and young people’s charity in the North East over a three-month period. All service users were invited to complete an anonymous paper or online survey about chemsex.
Results This is provisional data from 954 surveys. 18 respondents reported engaging in chemsex (mean age 37 years,) 71% of which took place in the North East. 94% were male and 78% of these identified as gay (17% heterosexual, 6% bisexual.) 33% were HIV positive, 60% had a previous STI and 13% were ‘slamming’ (injecting.) 9% of all male respondents who identified as gay, had engaged in chemsex.
Discussion Data suggests that although chemsex is relatively uncommon in the North East, it is more prevalent in the MSM population and those who are HIV positive. Screening for chemsex in these groups should be standard practice and included in UK national guidance. Consequently service provision can be tailored to address local need by simple interventions or instigate clear pathways into specialist services.