“My husband died of chemsex, and I don’t want him to die for nothing”

– Why doctor: Your husband died in dramatic circumstances. Can you tell us about them?

Jean-Luc Romero – My husband died of chemsex, i.e. he mixed GBL and alcohol in order to have sex, with a person who left him to die by not calling not help. He fell into a coma and never woke up.

– Chemsex began to develop in France in the 2010s. How did your husband come to this practice?

I have no idea, he never told me about it. I discovered that he practiced chemsex the day of his death, which was very violent and guilt-inducing. I hadn’t noticed any withdrawal or exhaustion symptoms in the months preceding his death. The only thing I noticed was that he started getting up very early, because he had a lot of work. But he had to take products from time to time, since we found traces of drugs in his hair…

– So you two didn’t practice chemsex?

No, I don’t use any drugs.

– According to a new report, chemsex is increasingly practiced in homosexual circles. About 200,000 men regularly take drugs in France in order to have sex with other men. Is this actually something you see in your surroundings?

Yes. Just go to Grinder (the equivalent of Tinder for gays, editor’s note) to see it: many profiles indicate that the person practices chemsex, and, if it is not mentioned, it is generally enough two / three exchanges for your interlocutor to ask you if you take products. It’s amazing.

– Why such an increase?

I find that this practice has developed enormously in Paris with the health crisis and the anti-covid confinements. Since they could no longer go out, people got into the habit of locking themselves in apartments from Friday to Sunday to have sex while taking substances.

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The increase and multiplication of synthetic drugs such as cathinones on our territory also plays a role. In large gay parties, more and more men party with bottles of water and no longer alcohol, which indicates that they have certainly taken a product (the two substances are incompatible, editor’s note) . Today, it is very easy to get it quickly with the help of your phone, and it doesn’t cost much.

– What are people who practice chemsex looking for?

This heightens sexual sensations tenfold, and it also gives them a form of affection, since synthetic drugs disinhibit feelings.

– Have you been tempted yourself?

By dint of hearing “chemsexers” or former practitioners tell me about their trips with stars in their eyes, I already said to myself that it looked so wonderful that I had to try it. But I have seen this practice destroy so many lives that it holds me back.

– Precisely, what are the dangers of chemsex?

Already, it is an extremely addictive practice, because it feeds two addictions: that of sex and that of drugs. Then, when it is practiced in orgies or between two people who do not know each other or little, individuals are not vigilant when a man falls asleep, while he may be sinking into a coma. People also, for fear of the arrival of the police, tend not to call for help when taking drugs goes wrong. There are also individuals who prick their genitals directly, which can trigger abscesses.

And for people who stop practicing chemsex, realizing that they can no longer work for example, many find it difficult to resume a normal sexual and love life. For example, I have a friend who hasn’t had sex for 4 years.

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– You are currently working at Marie de Paris on a prevention and information campaign to try to reduce the impact of chemsex on health. Did the death of your husband play into your engagement on the subject?

Yes. Before his death, of course, I knew about the phenomenon, but I had not realized its magnitude. I also wanted him not to have died for nothing.

– Do you know what this new campaign will contain?

For the moment, nothing is decided. We have already made an inventory, and we are currently consulting the associations confronted with the problem of chemsex. Some argue for it to be addressed only to homosexuals, and others, noting that this practice is spreading in more and more circles (especially among women), for it to be designed for a wider audience.

In any case, I think that we must exclude the axis of moralization, because we know that it does not work.

– When do you plan to launch it?

The strategic committee was recently set up. So if all goes well, in June. And the global prevention plan will span four years.

– Do you think that other actions should be implemented to prevent the dangers of chemsex?

I think we need to train health professionals in these new addictions, and move towards the decriminalization of all psychoactive products. Many cities like Lyon, Lille, New York or Montreal are also waiting to see what we are going to put in place, to potentially follow suit.

– Some associations refer to “AIDS number 2”, just like the New York Times, which recently drew a parallel between chemsex and the HIV epidemic that appeared in the 1980s. What do you think?

It’s a shortcut, but there are actually a lot of HIV-positive people who practice chemsex. And I feel the same shame in them to say that they take drugs as that which one can still have to say today that one is HIV-positive, like me.

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