Chemsex in Scotland: Starting the Conversation (October-November 2015)


"Chemsex" is currently used to describe a diverse range of behaviours in which a wide variety of men who have sex with men (MSM) use a range of drugs, often illegal ones, to increase pleasure during sex, sometimes with complex consequences.

Anecdotal and recent survey evidence in some Scottish regions suggests a rise in sexualised drug use amongst MSM which is also possibly linked to the greater use of social and sexual networking apps. Recent London studies have found recreational drug use, particularly polydrug use, is very strongly linked to high-risk sex, including group sex, multiple sexual partners, and sero-discordant condomless sex. There is no standard definition of chemsex and any negative consequences/personal health outcomes are often specific to each individual.

It is now a public health concern in MSM in the London area and potentially linked to a rise in HIV, HCV and other health and social issues. Related negative outcomes can include: overdose, withdrawal, STI, BBV or mental health issues, e.g. psychosis, depression. This would suggest a resultant increase in need for, and numbers accessing, health and social care services.

Working with MSM in London, services have necessarily had to adapt their methods of delivery to the increase in issues linked to chemsex.

During October and November 2015, key voluntary and statutory organisations in Scotland organised a series of ‘Starting the Conversation’ events for professionals in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow on Chemsex in Scotland. The national series of events sought to highlight key learning and adapt them to a Scottish context, bringing together key groups to learn and contribute to discussions on current knowledge and practice regarding chemsex in Scotland, and how to better respond to an emerging public health issue. All of this learning has been brought together in the report below.


A series of events ran cocurrently, organised and led by the third sector organisations Hepatitis Scotland, Gay Men's Health, Waverley Care, HIV Scotland, the Terrence Higgins Trust, Positive Help Edinburgh, Addaction and Drugs Action. These events explored the wide varietes of sex which gay, bi-sexual and other men who have sex with men are having and how men can enjoy their sex lives whilst minimising the risk of contracting blood borne viruses including hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV.


View the report here.


Hepatitis Scotland
91 Mitchell Street
G1 3LN

Telephone: 0141 225 0419
Fax: 0141 248 6414