Text last updated 31 October 2016
Links updated 15 April 2017


Rehab Reviews | Uncredited | 15398


What this page is about

Chem is short for “chemsex”, and is having (sometimes group) sex under the influence of drugs.

It is of concern because of the health and personal risks faced by the users of dangerous chemicals. It has become popular on the younger gay scene, and is associated with the use of smart phones to arrange sex parties. Some of the chemicals used in chem were never intended to be consumed by humans. One popular recreational drug in current use is made by mixing floor stripper and drain cleaner.

These chemicals induce euphoria and reduce inhibitions to such an extent that the user may be unaware of who they’re having sex with, or whether that sex is safe.

The risks are obvious but reliable statistics are not available. One London sexual-health clinic estimate that 3,000 gay men who use recreational drugs in sexual contexts attend their clinic each month.

A study commissioned by three south London boroughs in 2014 found that three out of four gay men who had attended chemsex parties had engaged in unprotected sex, with a potentially high risk of passing on the HIV virus.

Users who misjudge their dose or mix it with alcohol risk going into a coma or death. Although most deaths related to chem are recorded as heart failure or other form of bodily malfunction, in the past five years a handful of deaths have been attributed to these drugs. The death of three men in London’s Pleasuredrome sauna in 2012 was attributed to chem.

Gay Activists need to

Understand what chem is and the risks involved,

Raise awareness of the issues and risks,

Work with the usual agencies in preventing more deaths from chem,

Make information available to users and potential users of chem,

Devise strategies for dealing with this issue.

There are links to further articles and studies into the use of Chem in the gay community.

Acts of Parliament


Home Pages

The Steve Retson Project: Chem sex
Sigma: South London Chem Research Project
The After Party Service
Ryche’s Recovery Den (Facebook support group)


Independent, 17 October 2015: The rise of gay ‘chemsex’ parties involving libido-enhancing drugs
Rehab Reviews, June 11 2014: Chem-Sex: Europe’s Synthetic Madness
Guardian, 7 November 2015: NHS Urged to respond to growing dangers of chemsex
The Guardian, 10 November 2015: Chemsex panic
Birmingham Mail, 20 January 2016: I used poppers says Michael Fabricant MP
The Guardian, 20 January 2016: Crispin Blunt MP Outs Himself as a Poppers User
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, April 2016: Report on Chemsex
Gay News Network, 25 Oct 2016: Expert says reports on chemsex are sensationalised
Attitude, 13 October 2016: Five Guys Chillin brings the highs and lows of chemsex to the stage
CNN, 24 Nov 2016: Stephen Port serial killer investigation