May 28, 2021
Mixing drugs and sex
Using drugs to enhance sex is not a new phenomenon.
Remember, alcohol is a drug too, and humans have been combining it with sex for a long time!
What is new are some of the drugs being used, the ways that people are meeting sexual partners, and some of the risks associated with mixing drugs and sex.
Why and where people mix drugs and sex
While different subcultures might use different terms for it, some of the most common ones are ‘Party and Play’ or ‘PnP’ and ‘Chemsex’. Health workers and researchers might also call it ‘sexualised drug use’.
Mixing drugs and sex happens amongst people of all communities and backgrounds, gender identities and expressions, sexualities and dis/abilities.
Drugs are typically used to increase the physical pleasure of sex and the ability to have sex for longer, as well as to increase confidence or remove or reduce inhibitions.1
For some people, sex may last for several hours, can occur over a period of days, and might involve multiple partners.2
Mixing drugs and sex usually happens in private homes, but also occurs at sex-on-premises locations.3
While people mix drugs and sex for pleasurable reasons, there are concerns about negative health outcomes (such as sexually transmitted infections) and impacts on mental health.4
Commonly used drugs
As well as alcohol, illicit drugs often used during sex are:
- Crystal methamphetamine (commonly called ‘ice’ or ‘Tina’)
- GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate)
- Amyl nitrite
- Erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Sildenafil.3
Drugs like crystal methamphetamine may be smoked or injected (also known as slamming, blasting or whacking) before or during sex sessions.3
Other drugs such as ketamine and cocaine may also be used, but aren’t as common.5
Harms associated with mixing drugs and sex
Mixing drugs and sex can be potentially harmful.
The use of drugs like methamphetamine can result in unwanted side effects such as agitation, anxiety, paranoia, aggression, and in some cases psychosis.5 GHB overdose can be fatal.
Other potential harms include:
- comedowns (the after-effects of taking drugs – such as low mood and depression)
- risk of dependence
- risk of overdose
- drug interactions (including with alcohol and HIV antiretroviral medications)
- increased sexual health risks due to the absence of condoms
- risk of hepatitis C transmission.6
Technology has also changed the ways that people find and communicate with each other before and after sex. Apps like Tinder and Grindr are popular ways to meet sexual partners.
Although there are some risks associated with these types of apps – concerns around privacy, harassment, discrimination, and sexual assault – there are benefits too.7
They’re convenient, and people can discuss issues around safe sex beforehand, and talk about what they’re interested in doing (or not doing).7
Harm reduction when mixing drugs with sex
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk.
For people who have decided to mix drugs and sex, there are some important steps that can be taken to reduce some of those risks.
ACON’s PivotPoint has created a whole range of resources including:
- self-reflection tools
- preparation tips
- discussing consent before people are intoxicated
- advice around knowing and setting your limits.
NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) has developed drug-specific harm reduction tips for some of the drugs that are commonly used before and during sex.
ACON’s harm reduction website PivotPoint also shares tips for reducing the risks when mixing drugs with sex such as:
- use condoms and lube
- take PrEP to protect against HIV
- get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Other tips for reducing risks include:
- set limits for yourself while you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs around what you do and don’t want
- don’t share needles
- thinking ahead about what to do in an emergency – either an overdose or another type of emergency – can also help you respond quickly, should something happen.
Where can I go for support?
If you are interested in peer support around mixing drugs and sex, reach out to PivotPoint’s PnP Peer Chat service.
If you’re concerned about your own drug use, or the drug use of someone close to you, there’s confidential help available. You can search our list of Support Services for services in your local area or call DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84.
- Clackett S, Hammoud M, Bourne A, Maher L, Haire B, Jin F, et al. Flux: Following lives undergoing change 2014-2017 surveillance report. Sydney: The Kirby Institute; 2018.
- Hammoud MA, Vaccher S, Jin F, Bourne A, Haire B, Maher L, et al. The new MTV generation: Using methamphetamine, Truvada™, and Viagra™ to enhance sex and stay safe. International Journal of Drug Policy. 2018;55:197-204.
- Bourne A. Australia Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) 2018. [cited 26 May2021].
- Rapid Response Service. Sexualized drug use (chemsex and methamphetamine) and men who have sex with men: Ontario HIV Treatment Network; 2019 [cited 26 May 2021].
- Ma R, Perera S. Safer 'chemsex': GPs' role in harm reduction for emerging forms of recreational drug use. Br J Gen Pract. 2016;66(642):4-5.
- Avert: Global information and education on HIV and AIDS. Chemsex and HIV Online 2020. [cited 26 May 2021] Available from:
- Albury K, Byron P, McCosker A, Pym T, Walshe J, Race K, et al. Safety, Risk and Wellbeing on Dating Apps: Final Report. Melbourne: Swinburne University of Technology; 2019.