“Initially, patients come for well-identified problems, an addiction to alcohol or drugs. But when you dig, you discover something else”. This “something else” is the practice of “chemsex”, “chemical sex”, in other words the fact of having sexual relations under the influence of narcotics. This practice, which came from the United Kingdom, has been booming in France since the beginning of the 2010s. In his office, Yann Botrel, an addictive hypnotherapist in Saint-Genis-Laval (near Lyon), observes this daily. Which worries him greatly.
“Taking psychotropic or synthetic drugs makes it possible to be completely uninhibited, to intensify and prolong the relationship. We no longer feel tired, we have a feeling of omnipotence. We are embarking on a sex marathon, ”he develops. The sensations and the duration of the act can be multiplied by three. “Chemsex quickly has a very addictive power. Some only live for that,” continues Yann Botrel. Only, it turns out to be “very dangerous”, he warns. The risks are multiple.
An “underestimated” death toll
“This provides an addiction in general which becomes habitual and which escapes sexuality”, specifies Philippe Lak, doctor at the Croix-Rousse hospital in Lyon. The man supervised Sea, sex and Chems, the first study on the subject, the fruit of the thesis in medicine by Dorian Cessa, one of his former interns. “There is also a cardiovascular risk and a psychiatric risk, generated by the absorption of products. You can have almost delusional feelings. This can reach the neurological circuits and cause serious depression, ”continues to list the specialist. Without forgetting the transmission of diseases, the risk of coma caused by the mixture of alcohol and drugs. And sometimes, death at the end.
In 2018, around twenty deaths were attributed to chemsex in the Lyon region. Figures “that we know are underestimated”, indicates Yann Botrel, specifying that this practice now affects all walks of life. “More and more young people are getting involved. Before, this practice mainly affected the gay community and men aged 35-45. Which is no longer the case today,” he observes.
“It also concerns women”
What Philippe Lak confirms: “With the appearance of social networks, it has become more democratic. This practice is spreading more and more, as the study clearly shows. We have seen a whole hidden population emerge. Of the 2,767 people who responded to the study, 1,196 said they had already practiced chemsex, including 43% once a month and 13% weekly. 13% of respondents indicated they were heterosexual. But this is not the only lesson. “This also applies to women. 27% of them are religious, of which 44% are heterosexual and 28% bisexual”, develops the doctor. In his department, about 70 patients have been treated for chemsex problems every year for the past three years.
“The problem is that most practitioners don’t realize this. For them, it’s just a way to lose control. They explain their dependence on products in a context of sexuality but they do not really measure the depth of their addiction”, continues Philippe Lak, stressing that “it is never too late to consult”.
Today, Yann Botrel warns of the need for “public authorities to take matters into their own hands”. “Many doctors are doing things very well, but there is an urgent need to raise public awareness on a large scale and massively develop preventive measures,” he concludes.