Community News

FEATURE: CHEMSEX – The white elephant in the room

Bright Daffodil May 7, 2018

Bright Daffodil investigates the white elephant in the room – Chemsex.

BRIGHTON earned the reputation of being the drug death capital of the UK in the 2000s. It was only in 2017 that statistics changed, revealing fewer deaths in the city than any year back to 2001. The spike in deaths was mainly due to opiate overdoses. However, these statistics are much more representative of the heterosexual communities, as the house party drug scene we are seeing now in the LGBT+ communities shows a much bleaker picture.

Let’s face it, the party scene in our community has changed, my generation would be out every Saturday night necking E’s doing a whirling dervish on a dance floor topless, whilst scouting out the trade to take home. The community was much more social in the 1990s and 2000s because we had a much bigger array of venues to choose from, and the only way to meet people was to go out.

Chemicals and sex have always been part of our social structure. The drugs that we took then have been replaced by much more dangerous and sinister chemicals. Many clubs have closed, and demographics have changed in how we hook up.

Since around 2012 we’ve seen a huge increase in people partying at home and hooking up via apps on their phone. Chemicals such as GBL, GHB and the notorious Crystal have replaced happy pills and with it bought in a much more dark and dangerous side to partying.

A typical chemsex party can go on for days and, as people come and go, measuring and using chems safely often becomes an issue. Gamma-butyrolactone, known as GBL, produces a feeling of euphoria while reducing inhibitions. Perfect for a party full of strangers.

GBL can easily cause accidental overdose, and has been linked to a dramatic rise in deaths in London, where someone died from GBL every 12 days in 2015, according to research by Imperial College London. Club DJ Dr Mu (Noel Fuchs) became a victim in 2014. Stories of popular faces on the gay scene passing away at sex parties have become quite normalised and almost everyday happenings.

Homeless services have also seen a sharp rise in gay men accessing services due to Crystal and GHB addiction, and its impact on health and stability. Drugs have always been a part of our club culture but none with such dire impacts and death tolls have been seen before. What’s different about this epidemic is that we aren’t talking about it as a community.

Michael Burton was a popular face on the Brighton gay scene and died aged just 37 in 2016. His popularity and dramatic, but obvious, downward spiral into homelessness and joblessness highlighted that this new gay drug culture can have devastating effects and those effects happen very quickly. It brought into the spotlight an issue that was once seen as a problem which only affected capital cities like New York and London, but is now here unapologetically to stay in Brighton.

I interviewed Stephen Morris, an LGBT+ activist and chemsex crime lead at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, who has been speaking out about the chemsex epidemic in the south of England for the past five years. Along with David Stuart of London’s 56 Dean St, both advocate for the community to start speaking out about the realities of the chemsex party scene and its consequences.

Stephen says: “We’re living in age where there’s a spirit of entitlement, a less politicised community and young gay men still traumatised from growing up different are seeking safe spaces.”

Nowadays, vulnerable people access sex via apps and as such can fall head over heels into the shadowy world of chemsex and chemsex parties very quickly. The thinking that informs protest, such as the media, have shamed us for showing vulnerability. This in turn allows for the apathy and judgement which are the two main factors for the scene going underground.

Sexual assaults aren’t being reported on the scene because of a blame culture and a lack of transparency and boundaries regarding consent. Antidote is an LGBT+ drug project, currently exploring the dialogue of collusion and permission within the chemsex scene by consulting gay men using the service.
Stephen says that ‘Grindr crime’, or innocently committing a sexual crime, is growing because of the lack of awareness in the community about what constitutes a crime. At what point can someone consent when they are high for days with lack of sleep and are out of touch with reality?

Working within the prison service, Stephen has seen a rise in predatory sexual criminals using gay hook ups to groom young victims. Because we have a culture, a silence in our community, Stephen says, we forget that abusers talk to other abusers.

Serial killer Stephen Port got away with murdering young gay men via Grindr for months because the police didn’t follow lines of evidence. Never has it been so easy for abusers to access vulnerable people and silence them than in chemsex culture.

Bright Daffodil
Bright Daffodil

UK police have recently started a chemsex enquiry and response toolkit. They’re taking the scene seriously since the Grindr serial killer case. However, if you take substances and report an assault, you will be investigated also. The message to victims is not to mention drugs. Therefore, chemsex is often not mentioned, thus acting as a block to addressing Brighton’s problem. Galop estimate 97% of chemsex assault victims won’t go to the police.

Stephen Morris has suggested a drug amnesty for chemsex victims who report it to police. He says that without it our silence is enabling the abusers and the crisis within our communities to grow out of control.

Of the 1,128 treatment assessments carried out in 2017 at Pavilions in Brighton, 23 identified as using Crystal Meth as their primary substance, while 2% had methamphetamine cited as one of their top three problem substances.

If you need help, contact:
• CLINIC M: 01273 523388
• PAVILIONS: 01273 731900 or 07884 476 634
• Or visit: SHAC East (Claude Nicol Centre), Eastern Road, Brighton, BN2 5BE

A Cuckoo In The Nest!

What is cuckooing?
Cuckooing is where criminal gangs target vulnerable people in their homes to deal drugs from there. The person is intimidated with threats of violence and bullying or enticed through the offer of drugs. The person being cuckooed often won’t want to raise concerns for fear of repercussions or violence. Victims of cuckooing can disengage with support groups or services and be unwilling to talk about what is happening at their home when the subject is raised with them.

Signs to look out for:
More visitors to the property than usual, often visiting for short periods of time, new associates hanging around, bags of clothes, bedding or other unusual signs that people may be staying there, lots of vehicles outside for short times, including taxis, discarded syringes, foil or other evidence of drug use, more local anti-social behaviour than normal, including lots of stolen bikes.

What to do:
If you’re worried that someone is being cuckooed, contact Sussex Police by emailing: with an email title OPERATION CUCKOO, providing as much detail as possible or for further advice ring the Safer Communities Team on 01273 292735 or community support from the LGBT CSF on 01273 855620.