“Chemsex”, a risky practice for ever younger users

On May 29, 2018, Christophe Michel’s phone rang in a void. Expected at a conference, the young secretary general of the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity did not show up. A few hours later, her husband is summoned to the police station. She is told that her 31-year-old partner has died following the absorption of synthetic drugs during sexual intercourse.

After the brutality and the shock of the news, Jean-Luc Romero-Michel takes up the pen. His work, More alive than ever! (Michalon, 2020), is the story of mourning, but also a cry of alarm in the face of the silence of the public authorities on the rise of “chemsex”. “Since the publication of the book, I have received 450 letters, most of them written by chemsexeurs or their relatives”, tells this deputy to the Town hall of Paris in charge of human rights, integration and the fight against discrimination. In November 2021, the city of Paris announced the establishment of a plan and a strategic committee to inform about the dangers of chemsex.

Coming from the contraction of the terms “chemicals” and “sex”, the term designates a practice consisting in consuming psychotropic or synthetic drugs to intensify and prolong sexual intercourse: crystal methamphetamine, mephedrone, GHB, cathinones …

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Chemsex has been booming in France since the early 2010s, reveals the study “Sea, Sex and Chems”, the first results of which were unveiled in November 2021. Its coordinator at the Assistance Publique des Hôpitaux de Marseille, the psychiatrist Dorian Cessa, describes a phenomenon that is becoming commonplace and concerns an increasingly young audience: “Ten years ago, the typical chemsexist profile was a gay CSP + between 35 and 45 years old. Today, the average age is 27. Just start any gay app to find chemsex proposals. And the practice is also growing among heterosexuals. ”

Drug accessibility

Born in large metropolises, the phenomenon is no longer exclusively urban. Jean-Luc Romero-Michel experienced this during the pandemic. Confined in Nord-Pas de Calais, the elected official connected to Grindr: “I was amazed to see the number of profiles indicating chems located near a small town in the mining basin. ”

Almost 30% of gay dating app users are reportedly engaging in chemsex, confirms Dorian Cessa, citing a Dutch scientific study. “In France, Grindr [une application de rencontres gay] has 500,000 monthly users, by extrapolating we arrive at nearly 150,000 people who practice chemsex ”, he believes.

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