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Challenges of Chemsex in health, justice, and social care settings: Developing a coordinated response

Hillier, Bradley, Carthy, Elliott, Pakianathan, Mark, Tracy, Derek, Hickson, Ford and Forrester, Andrew ORCID: 2023. Challenges of Chemsex in health, justice, and social care settings: Developing a coordinated response. Presented at: RCPsych International Congress, 10-13 July 2023. BJPsych Open. , vol.9 (S1) Cambridge University Press, S190-S190. 10.1192/bjo.2023.491

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Aims Chemsex refers to the use of specific drugs before or during sex to sustain, enhance, disinhibit, or facilitate the sexual experience, primarily amongst gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. The main drugs associated with Chemsex are crystal methamphetamine, gamma-hydroxybutyrate/gamma-butyrolactone, mephedrone and ketamine. There are complex biological, psychological, and social factors that influence why someone may choose to engage in Chemsex that are yet to be fully elucidated. However, there are global concerns that such harm is increasing both in prevalence and complexity, including interfaces between the health, social care and criminal justice systems. Chemsex has been identified as a priority for the UK Home Office Drug Strategy since 2017; however, the response to date has lacked a coordinated approach between the multiple services and agencies where Chemsex can present. Methods West London NHS Trust hosted a day-long meeting of the Chemsex Expert Reference Group (ERG) on 27th July 2022 at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This comprised of a group of clinicians and academics across the NHS, criminal justice system and third sector, with the meeting focused on three main clinical questions: what do we need to know about working with this complex and vulnerable group of people?; What is the research needed to improve this?; What are the aspiration clinical pathways that should be developed? Results The ERG identified several gaps in our knowledge including a paucity of epidemiological data, the importance of cultural competency around the health needs of LGBTQ+ people, inconsistencies in the knowledge of healthcare professionals on how to manage emergency presentations such as methamphetamine-induced psychosis, GHB withdrawal and GHB overdose and risk assessment and risk management for those who may also be a victim and/or a perpetrator of a criminal offence in the Chemsex context. The group's core values for service and pathway development were identified as to be authentic, competent, non-judgemental and that lived experience should be at the centre of service development, as well as being evidence-based and supported by national clinical guidelines. Conclusion What was apparent was the ambition and interest from across so many clinical specialities, and some incredibly positive work that is already ongoing. It is hoped that the outcomes of this ERG can help progress this to a more cohesive set of responses, and the development of an evidence-based, multi-agency approach to assessment and treatment for this complex group.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 2056-4724
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 25 July 2023
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2023 09:45

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