With hook-ups on hold to stop the spread of COVID-19, it was lockdown for chemsex as well. While you might feel that you were cock-blocked by COVID, getting sweaty with a room full of strangers would have been a sure way to transmit the virus, had you or anyone else been carrying it. Overall, we think we did pretty good job as a community (and part of the team of 5 million); staying home has paid off for us all and it feels like normality is just on the horizon.
Here’s some advice for everyone thinking about getting sexy again and how to make sure pushing play on party remains a good time, as well as some tips for those who enjoyed slowing down or stopping.
What happened during lockdown?
Research in the UK found more than half of regular chemsex participants completely stopped drug use and hook-ups, others continued chemsex but only with a partner they live with, and some continued drug use but didn’t have sex in person.
We expect New Zealand would have seen pretty similar patterns, with most guys who enjoy their drugs and sex together stopping hooking up during lockdown. For some guys, lockdown was about finding new experiences, going virtual and becoming self-taught experts in flattering lighting. For others lockdown might have been a “is this who I want to be?” moment to reflect on whether this scene was working for them. A small portion of guys involved in chemsex would have had a rough time if stopping after regular use.
Lockdown has also changed the drug market. We heard about reduced availability in some areas, as well as more variability in products. We expect this to continue – so be even more sceptical if purchasing anything soon.
Keeping the chains of transmission broken
This period of abstinence to break the chain of transmission for COVID was not all bad, as it gave us a huge head-start on breaking the chain of transmission for HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Any sexually transmitted infections (such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis) that are symptomatic would have emerged over the lockdown period and hopefully been treated.
To make sure the chain of transmission for any sexually transmitted infections or HIV infections that were not symptomatic are broken (look at how prepared we were for all this COVID lingo), everyone needs to get a full sexual health check before getting back to it. If you’re not comfortable visiting a health clinic you can order an at-home HIV test here.
Wait for results before hooking up, and if you took a break from PrEP over lockdown, make sure you restart using the 2-1-1 method, or else taking it for a full seven days to build protection.
Now more than ever, it’s really important to make sure you have a least one contact method (more than just a Grindr profile) of any sexual partner. If we have an outbreak (of COVID or anything else) then you would want to know if you had come in contact with someone - so make sure you do the same for all your sexual partners. Think of this as a journal of steamy moments that can be looked back on during dry times – and it’s handy to have their number or Instagram if you want to start anything up again.
Pushing play on your party?
Alongside getting tested, it’s a good idea to ease back into a post-lockdown world. If you have had a break from drug use during lockdown, then you’re going to have lower tolerance. This means drugs will affect you more and if you dose regularly then there is a real risk of overdose; start slow, wait for the full effort before using more and avoid mixing to reduce overdose risk. Starting slow also applies to sex. If you were used to super intense sessions but haven’t had any in a while, scale it back a bit (fewer partners, shorter sessions, less frequent) to avoid becoming overwhelmed and see at what point you are sated. No need to unwrap every present all at once – enjoy the build-up.
Want things to be different?
If you have stopped use and this is where you want to stay, well done. To maintain this make sure you have some quality and enjoyable things to fill in the time when you would be on the scene, stay off the apps and have a plan if you are going into settings which are triggering. If you just want a bit more control when getting back on it, think about what gives you cravings in the first place, put in place some commitments that are important to you and set some small goals for the next week.
If you struggled to stop (drug use, drinking, sex or even time on apps) during lockdown when you wanted to, it is a chance to reflect on how these behaviours fit in with who you want to be. For a lot of people, having our daily life disrupted gave us pause and if you don’t want to go back to before it is time to reflect about how move forward. It can be a bumpy ride stopping, so find out more about withdrawal and recovery here.