Chemsex in Italy: Experiences of Men Who Have Sex With Men Consuming Illicit Drugs to Enhance and Prolong Their Sexual Activity.
Nimbi FM., Rosati F., Esposito RM., Stuart D., Simonelli C., Tambelli R.
BackgroundChemsex is a novel phenomenon referring to the consumption of illicit drugs to facilitate, enhance, and prolong the sexual experience in men who have sex with men (MSM).AimThe present study aims to investigate contexts, patterns of substance use, first chemsex experience, and harm reduction in a group of MSM practicing chemsex in Italy.MethodsThirty MSM involved in chemsex activities were interviewed between February and July 2019.OutcomesThe interviews were conducted using an ad hoc grid exploring general characteristics of Italian chemsex, patterns of substance use, first chemsex experience, and harm reduction opinions.ResultsChemsex in Italy showed important peculiarities and patterns because of sociocultural background. Chemsex was mainly reported in private venues within couple and group sexual activities. Most participants attended chemsex sessions about 1-2 times per month often concurring with men-only club events. Freebase cocaine emerged among the most relevant substances consumed together with gamma-hydroxybutyrate/gamma-butyrolactone, crystal methamphetamine, and mephedrone. A rare use of injected substances compared with other European Union countries was shown. Given the high prevalence of erectile problems, a large use of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors was reported, and noncoital sexual activities were usually preferred (eg, oral sex, fist fucking). The first chemsex experiences were usually accessed by geolocation-based dating apps and sexual partners and were generally described as positive experiences, with some negative consequences at the end of the session (dysphoric mental states, guilt, craving). Taking part in international gay events seems to favor the first experience of chemsex for some participants. Moreover, some MSM practiced chemsex only abroad or in other cities in Italy so as not to be recognized as chem users in their daily environment.Clinical translationImplications for ad hoc harm reduction programs are discussed.Strengths & limitationsDespite the methodological limitations due to participants' number and the absence of interviews audio recording, results highlighted some relevant characteristics of chemsex in Italy, such as freebase cocaine use, attitudes regarding slamming, geographical movements, and secrecy.ConclusionThe results revealed a need for greater scientific and public attention on chemsex to act with the most specific and effective prevention and harm reduction tools. Nimbi FM, Rosati F, Esposito RM, et al. Chemsex in Italy: Experiences of Men Who Have Sex With Men Consuming Illicit Drugs to Enhance and Prolong Their Sexual Activity. J Sex Med 2020;17:1875-1884.