A new documentary released on December 4th, Chemsex provides a brutal look into a disturbing health crisis in the gay community. Distributed by Peccadillo Pictures, the film’s provocative title is the name given to the rising phenomenon of using drugs in a sexual context. Often referring to group sex that can last for days, the dangerous allure of chemsex has led to many young men being trapped in a vicious circle of sex, addiction and exposure to sexually transmitted disease.
Revealing the stories of gay men whose lives have been affected by the crisis, the film details the stories of everyone from the self-confessed ‘slammers’ to sexual health workers exhausted by the flood of new cases. By examining the dark underworld of modern, urban gay life, the film shows the damage being done by these multi-day, drug-fuelled orgies. Chemsex is described as the habit of engaging in weekend-long parties fuelled by sexually disinhibiting drugs, such as crystal meth, GHB, GBL and mephedrone.
Made for Vice by two straight filmmakers, 34-year-old William Fairman and Max Gogarty, 27, Chemsex chronicles the extreme abuse of these so-called party drugs, including the sharing of needles that have resulted in alarming explosions in both HIV and HCV infections. Recently identified as a health priority NHS and the British Medical Journal, four new positive diagnoses are currently being made on a daily basis in London with the vast majority of these diagnoses linked to chemsex lifestyles.
The filmmakers described their hopes in a recent statement when they wrote, “The decision to turn a camera on this subject came from seeing first-hand how this community were starting to respond to this crisis…. it became clear to us that ‘chemsex’ was pushing people’s physical and mental health to breaking point, not to mention the resources of those on the frontline trying to stem this epidemic.”
The documentary also includes candid talk about “pozzing up”, the practice of knowingly becoming infected with the virus. The film climaxes with real-time footage of a heartbreaking episode of crystal meth psychosis that proves to be deeply troubling to watch. “It is a horror story,” explains Tom Abell of Peccadillo Pictures, a company that operates at the vanguard of sophisticated gay storytelling.
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