“Sex and Drugs and…” Chemsex

When it comes to chemsex, it is essential to improve training and strengthen the network of professionals involved

Two men kissing

Chemsex refers to the practice of using drugs to enhance sexual activity, typically among gay and bisexual men; It involves the use of such substances as methamphetamine (crystal meth), mephedrone, and GHB that can alter one’s perceptions and mood, leading to a heightened experience of intimacy – Photo by Sushil Nash on Unsplash

By Susana Almeida – The issue of chemsex should always be analysed from multiple perspectives, including historical, cultural, environmental, geopolitical and, of course, from the perspective of specialized clinical care, taking into account the needs, desires and specificities of each individual. It is worth noting that the sexualized use of drugs exists even before humans, in the animal kingdom, as mentioned in several publications, in particular in the book “Animals and Psychedelics” (2013) by the ethnobotanist Giorgio Samorini, where it is observed that birds and ants engage in mating (within their species) after consuming fermented fruits and nectars (with alcohol content), among other species and types of substances found in the natural environment.


As the practice of chemsex became more popular, particularly in Europe, various authors, organizations and communities adapted the definition of chemsex, resulting in almost a hundred accepted definitions worldwide. However, the definition that seems to have gained the most consensus is:

“The intentional use of substances during sexual relations over a prolonged period among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM)”.

It is on this more consensual, though less inclusive definition, which excludes other chemsex practitioners, that Dianova Portugal and its European partners base their studies and projects developed in this area.

In 2019, Dianova Portugal joined a consortium of six organizations to create an open, multilingual e-learning platform for addiction professionals in Europe. Between 2019 and 2021, they will develop four courses: Non-substance addiction, Addiction among young people, Mainstreaming the gender perspective in addiction treatment, and European quality standards for drug prevention.

Following the initial success, a training needs assessment carried out by the consortium in 24 EU countries revealed that 48% of addiction professionals needed training in chemsex. In response, a new application was submitted to expand the #LearnAddiction platform to include specialized training in chemsex, which was launched in February 2022. In 2023, a meeting in Berlin led to content improvements, culminating in dissemination events in June 2024. Dianova Portugal then conducted one face-to-face workshop and three webinars with 117 participants representing 56 institutions.

The next steps include the inclusion of additional content in the course (related to resources available in Portugal), the organization of complementary workshops, the development of additional support materials, the continuous training of teams, the strengthening of the network of professionals and the dissemination of new courses.

The dissemination events were very positive, with positive feedback and significant participation from different institutions, including universities, hospitals, LGBTQI+ associations and health organizations. The chemsex training on the #LearnAddiction platform proved to be relevant and necessary, highlighting the importance of further developing and deepening this important public health issue.