Love alters the chemical reactions in the brain. It also plays on our senses, that touch, smell, and sight. Love can make colours brighter; love can make a person's scent irresistible. Is love just a chemical reaction that invokes feelings and emotions?
How Brain Chemistry Alters When We're in Love
An article on HealthMatters.nyp.org explains the chemical reactions behind falling in love. Writer Jason Wirchin explains:
“While there’s no single pathway to falling in love, one possible reaction happens this way: After an initial spark with a person, the body may produce high levels of testosterone and oestrogen, which drive intense feelings of lust. The brain then produces elevated levels of dopamine, which affects how people experience pleasure, and norepinephrine, resulting in a faster heart rate, restlessness, and loss of appetite. These are all signs of attraction.”
Dopamine and norepinephrine play a massive role in the chemical reactions associated with feelings of love. These are the primary chemicals that affect us when using cocaine, MDMA, and ketamine. These substances influence our central nervous system (CNS).
So, you’re in love! And it’s beautiful, chemical, electric! The special meal has been booked for the 14th of February. You’re reeling in anticipation, your senses heightened. Thinking of their smile as you pour a glass of their favourite wine, the deep conversations and the sensual evening to follow.
Or, maybe you’re getting ready for a house party? Perhaps it’s a special Valentine’s Day club night that’s getting you excited?
What is Chem Sex?
Chem sex is when you use a drug to heighten the experience of sex. In the UK, the term “Chem sex” is typically used to describe interactions between men, but anyone of any gender expression or sexuality can use substances whilst engaging in sex.
Usually, those substances are Cocaine, Crystal Meth (methamphetamine), GHB or GBL. By using these drugs, users report increased sexual arousal, lowered inhibitions, and increased intensity and duration.
How to Stay Safe During Chem Sex:
But if you want to engage in chem sex, how can you ensure it’s safe? When you’re already under the influence of hormones and lust, the longing to get your date home and out of those clothes is unbearable. And that little baggie you’ve got is burning a hole in your pocket…
Use Appropriate Protection
Firstly, as with any sexual contact, you must be sure to practice safe sex, using condoms, dams, and lube. These are all available free from your local drug service or pharmacy. It’s always safer to have your own condoms/dams; that way, you know you won’t be convinced to risk it in the heat of the moment. You also can be assured that they are in date, the correct size, and they have not been tampered with in any way. You should use protection every time to reduce your risk of catching a Blood Borne Virus or an STI.
If you’re engaging in Chem Sex, staying safe is not just about preventing STIs and pregnancy. It’s imperative to also think about the three S’s - Substance, Setting and Self.
If you’re injecting your drug of choice, it’s important not to share any equipment. You may be sharing bodily fluids, but there’s no need to share needles, cookers and water. Always use your own equipment and ensure that each needle you use is clean. Don’t draw from someone else’s cooker. Use your own at all times - this is imperative due to the risk of Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs), including HIV and hepatitis. You can get free, clean needles from your local drug service if you're an IV drug user. The best advice I can give to minimise your risk of catching or transmitting these BBVs is “never share.”
If your method of use is snorting, then never share your tooter with anybody else. BBVs can easily be transmitted from your tooter or someone else’s. It only takes a microscopic drop of blood to get infected.
So, to put it plainly – you’re sharing a bag of cocaine, someone else has an infection, they have been snorting, and all the blood has rushed to their nose. Their nose has started to bleed a little. They wipe it away and carry on. Now it’s your turn, they pass you the tooter, and you snort a line. That small amount of blood has now been transferred to you. In best case scenario, you get their hideous cold and feel like crap for a week.
Worst case? The risk of contracting HIV has increased tenfold. It’s just not worth it - use your own straw, discard it after use, and stay safe.
Is it just you and your partner who are going to have some kinky Valentine’s fun? Are you inviting a friend? Or are you going to a Valentine’s Day party at a local club?
Always remember to set ground rules and set these rules whilst sober. Discuss with your partner what it is that is acceptable before you use any substance and set a “safe word” because when you’re flying high, and you’re in the moment, your inhibitions are lowered, and you may take more sexual risks than you are comfortable with.
What is a safe word? This is usually a word that means “STOP” that you would typically not use in a sexual setting. The safe word is final, no ifs, no buts. For example, you could use the word “RED” as a definite stop and “AMBER” as a warning that it’s getting too much.
Depending on how you play, particularly in a pleasure/pain setting, the word “no” may not have the same weight. If your thing is “breath play” or asphyxiation, then you may not be able to speak - so agree a non-verbal “safe gesture” - either a blinking method with your eyes, 2 blinks for STOP or 2 taps on your sexual partner's body is STOP.
This is particularly important in a group setting. Get the rules sorted before you start to play and before you get high. Respect yourself and others. Boundaries are boundaries.
Avoid Mixing Drugs
If you are engaged in sexual activity of “men on men”, then you may want to consider taking PrEP. PrEP is a drug that can prevent you from contracting HIV through unprotected sex but also from IV drug use. If you do have sex with multiple partners and are under the influence of drugs, PrEP could reduce your chances of contracting HIV.
What about legal drugs like alcohol, Viagra, or poppers? The general advice is not to mix ANY drug! Not as easy as it sounds, is it? We drink alcohol; our inhibitions are lowered; we agree to take illicit substances, and our inhibitions are even lower.
Mixing drugs can affect your blood pressure more than a single substance. You snort that line, slam that needle, and then you suffer from erectile dysfunction. What a waste, Mr Floppy! So, you take Viagra and get it back. You agree to anal sex and sniff some poppers, so you are more relaxed. Both Viagra and poppers (amyl nitrates) can cause blood pressure to drop. Mixing two drugs that each drastically reduces blood pressure can be a dangerous cocktail and should never be used in combination with Cocaine or amphetamines, which also cause a drop in blood pressure.
This is probably one of the most important things that will determine if you’re going to have a good night or sit there paranoid and go into a chemical hole. If you are not in the right frame of mind or feeling paranoid already, then slamming or snorting will only increase those feelings.
If you are not feeling it, then using a substance will increase these feelings. It doesn’t matter how much shit you take - it will not get better in your head, only worse. If you’re not up for the night, then respect yourself. Just don’t do it! Do not put pressure on yourself to perform. Just because you’ve been invited to the party does not mean that you have to partake.
And one last piece of advice...
Get them a valentine’s card or a gift. Make that special person in your life feel special. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but showing and giving love is the greatest thing we humans can do.
How to Know What You're Taking is Safe
Finally, if you’re going to use substances to enhance your sexual experience this Valentine’s Day – or any other time – make sure you know what you’re taking. EZ Test drug testing kits are portable, easy to use and allow you to test the purity of many substances to ensure that what you’re taking is safe for consumption.
Stay safe, just know.