‘There is no information out there’: Hundreds treated by ambulance crews for chemsex-related incidents in Croydon

Sexual health charities and support workers have warned of the “devastating effects” of chemsex, as new figures show hundreds of people have been treated by ambulance crews in the past six months.

More than 400 people in Croydon were treated by London Ambulance Service (LAS) crews for chemsex-related incidents between September 1, 2023, and February 29, 2024, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Saba Ali, 52, a Croydon community advisor who sits on their LGBT+ Independent Advisory Group, said: “It’s a growing issue but there is no information out there to show how many people are suffering or how many deaths there have been.”

Chemsex – which typically involves parties in private homes centred on communal drug taking and sex – is a growing problem, sexual health charities say.

The three main drugs associated with chemsex – known as chems – are Crystal Meth, Mephedrone and GHB, more commonly known as G. 

All three increase libido and dramatically decrease inhibition and the desire to sleep.

Ms Ali said: “You only need a tiny bit to overdose and these drugs are highly addictive. A lot of people don’t know how to use them safely.”

According to the sexual health charity Controlling Chemsex, combining drugs and sex can have “devastating effects” including high levels of depression and anxiety, high risks of transmissions and infections of HIV, and in some cases overdoses or suicides.

Figures are high elsewhere in South London, with the LAS attending 371 incidents in Lambeth and 359 in Southwark in the same period. 

Ignacio Labayen de Inza, chief executive of Controlling Chemsex, said: “We are receiving many requests for support from people who live in Croydon. 

Saba Ali, who works for the LGBTQ+ Met command unit in Croydon (Picture: Saba Ali)

“Unfortunately chemsex is getting worse and South London is an area where people are affected particularly. It’s important people know there is life after chemsex. There is specialised and free support.”

In Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, numbers are lower, with 164 and 249 incidents in the past six months respectively.

The LAS said these figures were based on a text search of call notes, which means rates could be higher.

A spokeswoman from Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust said: “Since Covid restrictions eased there seems to be a resurgence of chemsex in the gay scene. Many nights out have dark rooms and some will use chems after going to a club, moving on to parties which involve chems.

“Many chems users will often speak of people “glued” to their phones, inviting people to come and go from the parties as the weekend progresses.”

The first British study into Chemsex  was commissioned by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham in 2014.

Research found men who used substances like Crystal Meth while having sex were at risk of overdosing, being hospitalised, losing consciousness, serious mental health problems and sexual assault.

Worryingly, the report added: “Nearly a third of men found it difficult to control their behaviour while under the influence of drugs and engaged in HIV/STI transmission risk behaviour, which they subsequently regretted.”

In February, Croydon council announced it would conduct a needs assessment to better understand issues related to mental health within the LGBTQ+ community, including chemsex.

For more information on chemsex and support available, visit: Controlling Chemsex  or 56 Dean Street 

(Picture: Maurício Mascaro/Pexels)

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