Photo courtesy of Roar Media

The world has become more complicated day by day and people are trying to find new ways to enjoy their lives such as using drugs and liquor as external happiness tools. There are many new drugs that are not compatible with the human body causing changes to patterns of behavior. In the past few months, Sri Lanka has experienced several storms including an economic crisis, a political crisis, a change in leadership, protests and an increase in HIV cases. Now there is a new threat arising among young people that is known as chemsex.

The meaning of chemsex is having sex under the influence of specific drugs to support, enhance, disinhibit, or enable sexual behavior. Chemsex carries many hazards and may have long lasting effects. In Europe and Asia the term chemsex is used. It is referred to as PnP, which stands for party and play, in the US and Australia. People are unable to control their feelings, especially when they have consumed high doses of drugs. It impacts heterosexual men and women, transgender women and non-binary individuals. There are many usage levels ranging from occasional drug use to regular drug use.

According to Dr. Rasanjali Hettiarachchi, Director of the National STD and AIDS Control Programme (NSACP), chemical sex has increased among young people between the ages of 18 to 30. She said that this form of sexual behavior was prevalent among the youth, particularly in Colombo and Gampaha, where there was a wide range of network among youth who organize private parties through social media.

While this type of risky sex had previously been practiced, the use of the ICE drug has contributed to the rise, which can affect health security in the country.

Chemsex involves four drugs including methamphetamine, which is also known as crystal, ice or meth. This is an extremely addictive drug and one of the most common drugs used for chemsex. The central nervous system is stimulated immediately and results in increased physical activity, enhanced wakefulness and a reduced feeling of tiredness. It can energize, stimulate sex and give a sense of confidence and strength. The second one is mephedrone, which is also a powerful stimulant that increases alertness, talkativeness and gives a strong sense of connection and empathy with others. The third drug is GHB, which is a sedative that can give a feeling of euphoria along with a reduction of inhibitions, enhanced libido and increased sensitivity to touch. But a few milliliters could make the difference between a recreational dose and an overdose.

Since ice was readily available among drug dealers, there was an upsurge in usage among young people who then engaged in sexual behavior. People take part in chemsex for many different reasons including to increase their confidence if they have low self-esteem; escape from the issues and reality; manage depression, stress and loneliness; expand one’s social network by meeting new people; and to belong to a group.

These drugs can give a sense of being impervious to harm and confidence, making you take risks that you ordinarily wouldn’t. This means that you frequently ignore your fundamental requirements such as eating, hydration and sleeping. Your relationship, job and health are impacted. People participating in chemsex could have problems with physical well-being including the risk of accidents and injuries; nutritional problems, lung and heart conditions, dental issues and disrupted sleeping patterns; mental health issues such as severe depression and psychotic episodes; emotional problems such as loneliness, family and relationship issues, low self-esteem and difficulty concentrating; financial problems and unemployment; drug overdose and suicide; and crimes related to chemsex.

It is clear that engaging in chemsex is a risk for health security. The NSACP is contacting people who are engaging in chemsex to provide them with medical support to recover by conducting clinics. A website has an online reservation system that provides the most convenient means for conducting HIV screening tests with the NSACP and preferred private practitioners while handling data to ensure privacy.

To lessen the drug menace, rehabilitation is vital. Instead of locking them up and mixing them with criminals, the authorities should concentrate on rehabilitating drug addicts, especially young students. The rehabilitation procedure needs to be carefully carried out under the supervision of professional counselors. Class room counseling is another important initiative to implement. The Ministry of Education should introduce counseling and awareness programs to educate students on the grave consequences of using drugs.