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A ‘G card’ has also been developed, which people engaging in chemsex can carry in their wallets to assist emergency services in the case of overdose.
Chemsex describes intentional sex under the influence of drugs, particularly gamma-butyrolactone (GBL, also known as ‘G’), ketamine, mephedrone and crystal methamphetamine. These drugs may be used alone or in combination to facilitate prolonged sexual sessions with multiple sexual partners.
Recent data from a survey of attendees to the Gay Men’s Health Service has revealed that 27 per cent had engaged in chemsex over the previous 12 months. GBL was the most frequently-used drug, according to research presented last week at the HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme conference in Dublin.
Dr Ronan Glynn, HSE Department of Public Health East, who presented on the issue at the conference, told the Medical Independent (MI) there is “such a fine line” between doses of ‘G’ that invoke pleasurable effects and doses that tip into overdose and death.
Chemsex was discussed at the conference as a potential factor in the rise of HIV and STI notifications among men who have sex with men (MSM).
A “number of different factors” have caused the increase in HIV notifications and “chemsex may well be one of them”, Dr Glynn told MI. He said this will be further investigated.
Chemsex is often discussed in the context of MSM. However, Dr Glynn said it would be “naïve to conclude that it is only a problem with MSM. It’s very likely that drugs are being used for sex within the heterosexual community”.
Meanwhile, increased prevalence of GBL use and its link to high-risk sexual activity was raised at a meeting in February of the Early Warning and Emerging Trends (EWET) sub-committee of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol.
The HSE was aware that GBL was sold as a cleaning agent that could be divided into vials for individuals to consume, the meeting heard.
The Misuse of Drugs Regulations Act 1988 (as amended) allowed for GBL’s use in industry but provided “controls when it’s intended for human consumption”, reported the minutes.
From January to mid-November this year, four patients were treated for GHB/GBL detoxification at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.
*The awareness campaign resources including G card are now available at http://drugs.ie/ghb