Drugs and alcohol


The use of drugs, including both illicit substances and certain prescription medications, can have profound effects on an individual's physical and mental health. It is crucial to understand the potential risks and consequences associated with drug use, both in terms of general health and specifically related to sexual health.

  1. Physical and mental health risks: Drug use can lead to a wide range of physical and mental health issues. Different drugs have varying effects on the body and can impact vital organs, such as the heart, liver, and brain. Chronic drug use can lead to addiction, respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, mental health disorders, and impaired cognitive function. These health complications can significantly impact overall well-being and sexual health.
  2. Impaired decision-making and consent: Drug use can impair judgment, decision-making, and the ability to provide or obtain informed consent. Under the influence of drugs, individuals may be more inclined to engage in risky sexual behaviors or consent to activities they may not have agreed to otherwise. Impaired judgment can increase the likelihood of engaging in unprotected sex, engaging in risky sexual encounters, or disregarding personal boundaries.
  3. Increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Drug use can contribute to an increased risk of contracting and transmitting STIs. This risk can arise due to engaging in unprotected sex, sharing needles or drug paraphernalia, or participating in high-risk sexual behaviors while under the influence. It is important to understand the risks associated with drug use and take necessary precautions to protect oneself and sexual partners.
  4. Communication challenges: Drug use can hinder effective communication between sexual partners, similar to the impact of alcohol. Miscommunication or misunderstandings may occur due to altered perceptions, impaired cognitive function, or altered states of consciousness. This can complicate discussions around consent, boundaries, and sexual preferences, potentially leading to sexual dissatisfaction or conflicts.
  5. Vulnerability and exploitation: Individuals under the influence of drugs may be more susceptible to sexual coercion, exploitation, or abuse. Impaired judgment and decreased physical coordination can make it challenging to recognize and resist dangerous situations. It is vital to prioritize personal safety, be aware of the risks associated with drug use, and seek support if one feels vulnerable or has experienced any form of sexual exploitation.
  6. Substance abuse treatment and support: Substance abuse can significantly impact overall health, including sexual health. It is essential to seek professional help and support if struggling with drug addiction or substance abuse. Treatment options, counseling, and support groups can provide the necessary resources and guidance to overcome addiction and improve overall well-being.

It is crucial to prioritize personal health and safety by making informed decisions about drug use and its potential consequences. Seeking reliable information, understanding the risks associated with drug use, practicing safer sex methods, and engaging in open communication with sexual partners are essential for maintaining sexual health.

If you have concerns about drug use, addiction, or need support, it is recommended to seek guidance from healthcare professionals, addiction specialists, or organizations that specialize in substance abuse treatment. A good first step is to contact your Primary Care Physician.

For information regarding substance abuse and mental health services, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website: www.samhsa.gov. You can also visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website: www.drugabuse.gov, and the Partnership to End Addiction website: www.drugfree.org.


Alcohol consumption can have both physical and psychological effects upon you when consumed. It is important to understand the potential impact that alcohol consumption can have on sexual experiences and decision making. For some individuals, their alcohol use can negatively impact their sex life and increase the sexual risks that they take, for example not using a condom during sexual activity whilst under the influence of alcohol.

If you plan to engage in sexual activity whilst under the influence of alcohol, you should consider the following:

  1. Impaired judgement and consent: Alcohol can impair judgment, leading to decreased inhibitions and decision-making abilities. It can make it more challenging to assess situations accurately and give or obtain clear and informed consent. Engaging in sexual activities without clear and enthusiastic consent is not only ethically wrong but also potentially constitutes sexual assault.
  2. Increased risk-taking behavior: Alcohol use can increase the likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviors. Under the influence of alcohol, individuals may be more inclined to have unprotected sex, engage in casual or anonymous sexual encounters, or disregard safer sex practices. These behaviors can increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.
  3. Erectile and sexual dysfunction: Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with sexual function. For men, alcohol may contribute to erectile dysfunction or difficulty achieving and maintaining an erection. Women may experience decreased vaginal lubrication and reduced sexual sensitivity. These effects can impact sexual satisfaction and overall sexual health.
  4. Communication challenges: Alcohol can hinder effective communication between sexual partners. Miscommunication or misunderstandings may arise due to impaired cognitive function or altered perceptions. This can affect the ability to discuss boundaries, preferences, and consent, leading to potential sexual dissatisfaction or misunderstandings.
  5. Increased vulnerability: Alcohol intoxication can make individuals more vulnerable to sexual coercion, assault, or exploitation. Impaired judgment and physical coordination can make it more difficult to resist unwanted advances or identify potentially dangerous situations. It is crucial to prioritize personal safety and be aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.
  6. Substance abuse and mental health: Frequent or excessive alcohol consumption may contribute to substance abuse issues and mental health concerns, which can impact overall well-being, including sexual health. Addressing any underlying substance abuse or mental health issues is important for maintaining healthy sexual relationships and behaviors. Signs you might be drinking too much include:
  • You often feel the need or urge to have a drink.
  • You get into trouble or have or cause accidents because of your drinking.
  • You forget what’s happened when you have been drinking.
  • Other people are concerned or warn you about how much you're drinking.
  • Not doing what is expected of you because of drinking such as being late for work.

If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption, or for more information, please visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) website: www.niaaa.nih.gov.

For information regarding substance abuse and mental health services, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website: www.samhsa.gov.


Chemsex is a term used to describe engaging in sexual activities whilst under the influence of drugs specifically designed to facilitate and/or enhance that sexual activity. Unlike recreational drug use, Chemsex usually involves the use of one, or a combination, of the following drugs:

METHAMPHETAMINE (CRYSTAL / CRYSTAL METH / TINA) - This substance is a Schedule II controlled substance. It can lower inhibitions, which can lead to users taking risks that they wouldn’t normally take, such as having unsafe sex. It's very addictive, and some research suggests it can cause brain damage over time. It can also make you feel agitated and paranoid and can cause a raised heart rate and blood pressure.

MEPHEDRONE (MEPH / DRONE) - This substance is not specifically listed under the Controlled Substances Act; however, it is considered a synthetic cathinone (commonly referred to as “bath salts”). The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified certain synthetic cathinones as Schedule I controlled substances. It is like amphetamines which make users feel euphoric and affectionate. It can overstimulate your heart and nervous system. Mephedrone is normally snorted like cocaine, but it can also be swallowed, smoked, and injected. Those using it report feeling sick, anxious, and paranoid and may vomit or get headaches. Other risks include hallucinations, insomnia, reduced appetite, dizziness, and sweating.

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) / GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) (G, GINA, Liquid X) – these substances are Schedule I controlled substances. They are reported to have a relaxing, anesthetic effect which reduces users' inhibitions. GHB and GBL take the form of an oily liquid, or capsules, which are swallowed, both drugs are very dangerous and can be fatal, especially when used with alcohol. It can be difficult to know how much of the drug you are taking so it is easy to overdose. Risks include coma, unconsciousness, or death. Those taking it can also become helpless when taking the drug so are at risk of sexual assault.

These three substances, especially in combination, can make users feel relaxed and aroused. Chemsex commonly refers to sex that can sometimes last several days. There is little need for sleep or food. The heightened sexual focus enables more extreme sex, for longer, often with more partners and with less fear of STIs including HIV and HCV. "Slamming" or injecting is common when using chems and this carries its own risk including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

Counsellors offer the following guidance and recommendations if you do engage in chemsex:

  • Get screened for STIs regularly including HIV and Hepatitis
  • Don’t let someone else inject you
  • Play with someone you trust if possible, as your judgment can be dramatically impaired on chems
  • Establish a set of boundaries while sober about what you are not prepared to do sexually and with chems, that you can refer to later when high
  • Don’t play for too long – paranoia and hallucinations can be common on your second day awake
  • Do not share needles, or other injecting equipment. Clean needles can be obtained from needle exchanges. If you aren’t aware of all safer injecting practices, please speak to a drugs adviser in-clinic
  • Don’t play too regularly if you want to avoid depression, weight loss, and psychological dependence.
  • Ensure you spend time having sober sex and enjoying non-sexual recreation

For information regarding substance abuse and mental health services, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website: www.samhsa.gov.