London, one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in Europe, is facing a new crisis: the spread of chemsex.
When the UK government legalized same-sex marriage, the gay community welcomed this historical moment of human equality. However, it did not only cause gay people started to get married, but it also intensified many sexuality-related problems resulting in sex addiction and/or extreme sexual practices.
The abuse of chemsex has become an issue for the gay community in many countries. It is huge, from drug abusing and the black market behind to fake drugs that have left many mortal victims behind. Another side effect of chemsex is the increase of AIDS-infected patients and of mental diseases causes by drug use. In order to dig deep on this issue, the production crew behind the documentary Chemsex (2015) spent a year tracking and recording a group of addicts to drugs, sex and chemsex.
This film explicitly records people’s reactions right after injecting drugs. It’s quite a tough watch. One of them even gets horny in front of the camera and starts robbing his crotch while discussing his deepest desires…
The interviewees’ opinions are, obviously, quite bizarre and dark. One of them states that he hopes he can get infected with HIV soon because the “uncertainty” is killing him. Eventually he does get infected and, clearly, it is not what he expected, his ignorance towards the disease is completely heartbreaking. Facing the aftermath of drug using is a hard lesson to watch.
There is also one that confesses: “If I cannot do chemsex, I will rather die. Living is such a boring thing.” One also describes doing drugs as “setting off a firework inside your soul.” He is so high.
The film features a couple doing drugs inside a gay sauna. One of them passes out, and his boyfriend just leaves him there and tries to hook up someone else. Both of them are later send to the hospital. The next day, their friends secretly bring them drugs into their hospital rooms…
Besides these addicts, there are some other more positive cases: we meet a Spanish guy with a master degree who used to work as a bank manager. One day he tried drugs, got addicted to the experience and, finally, became infected. He loses his job, loses all his money, and he is left with nothing. However, he finds the strength to move to the UK and start working at a gay sexual health center to help other gay men overcome addiction, facing, this way, his own past demons.
There is also a one sad story particularly touching. One of the interviewees admits he cannot enjoy sexual pleasure without drugs. Only drugs can enhance these feelings. I still remember this online story I read once: a man says to his lover, “You have sex with others, but you only make love with me.” Here we learn that love is irreplaceable in a sexual relationship. When people cannot sense love and intimacy in a relationship, they can only numb themselves by rough desire and sex.
Another sad conclusion from this film is that many people cannot control their addiction to chemsex. Every time, after they are done, they sink, become gloomy, and start blaming themselves. They hate being addicted but they do not have strength to resist. They are trapped into a vicious cycle. The guilt drives them deeper and deeper into the thrilling world of drugs.
This film really touched me. I saw many souls hoping to be listened, hugged, understood and loved. But they seem oppressed by social pressure and they feel like drugs is the only way to numb their feelings and their normal human desires.
Do not forget there are plenty of gay men growing up with “guilt” because of their identity. They may try to fit in the so-called normal society but, at the end, they realize they are “different.” How many gay men have been through the process of “self-denial?”
Even me, as an openly gay man, I grew up with a lot of self-denial and self-condemnation. It seemed my existence was hurting my family. Fortunately, my friends supported me and my family open-mindedly embraced me. Otherwise, the shame and guilt could drag me down too.
I once argued the biggest difference between gay and straight men is that I would never have the life attitude straight men do: “everything is taken for granted,” and “the world is waiting for me to change it.” No matter how open I am, I always know that in this world I am part of a minority, and there will always be some people angry at my mere existence. Our liife attitude decides our fate.
If we cannot be our true selves, live our life frankly, manage our social relationships via “normal” ways, look for love, and be ourselves at the workplace without hiding, how can we have a healthy and normal life? The addiction is an outcome. We have to find out the cause. What is that? Maybe it is an extremely complex puzzle that we cannot solve.
Chemsex addicts also mention that they are looking for a sense of belonging. You have a common interest (drugs) and share it with a bunch of people, so you can build short but intimate relationships with others. The most special moment while doing drugs is that your sense of “self” and “existence” will disappear, which reflects the addicts’ inner desires. After meeting these broken souls, maybe we can find a right way to treat them. While facing addicts, we should treat them well, without judgements. They are patients who need empathy and acceptance. We should not simply treat them like criminals and lock them up, it is useless.
The fact is that we are in a threshold, recreational drugs may become legal in a few decades. In many western countries, marihuana has already been legalized, and this is just the first step. I am also concerned about the message behind this phenomenon: what happened to this world? Why are there are so many people that need recreational drugs to relax? If our society and culture are healthy, why do we need so many therapists and medicines? I think this is an issue we have to deal with.
I have recently read an article on Facebook. It was about rehabilitation. Many people think that drugs are addictive but, in fact, the factor of causing addiction is emotional not physical. Every patient who undergoes major surgery will be injected with high doses of morphine.These doses are so heavy that many people have developed drug addiction after surgery. During the Vietnam war, plenty of American soldiers smoked weed to numb themselves of the horrors of the battle. The whole country started to worry about the possible aftermath but to their surprise, these soldiers did not have any physical signs of addiction. We know the main factor in the path towards rehabilitation is in the heart. If we can help the addicts fit in the society again and have a normal social network, the company and love of family and friends, they may have a successful rehabilitation.
So next time when you meet an addict, maybe you can show some kindness and help them walk out of the darkness.