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Downers & Sex
(Courtesy of Rusopplysningen, a drug information project by Safer Drug Policies.)

Foto: Einar Hyndøy & Cloudberry Multimedia
  • The term “downers” commonly refers to drugs whose effects are sedating or relaxing. While this term can be used for a wide range of drugs from alcohol or cannabis to opioids, the most commonly encountered downers in chemsex will probably be alcohol, GHB/GBL, ketamine and benzodiazepines. Since most people will be familiar with alcohol and its effects in a sexual setting, this article primarily focuses on the latter three drugs and the most important effects and risks to bear in mind when (or ideally before) having sex on them.
  • GHB
    GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid or gamma-hydroxybutyrate) is a fatty acid and endogenous substance in the human body that is used as an illicit recreational drug as well as a legally prescribed sedative. On the illicit market, it is typically distributed either in the form of a salt diluted in water or as GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), an industrial solvent that is rapidly converted to GHB in the body with a faster onset of action. It normally produces a more clear-headed and prosocial version of drunkenness that is more stimulating at moderate doses and more sedating at higher doses.

    GHB and GBL can be difficult to dose, since increasing the dose slightly can lead to a large increase in the intensity of the sedating effects. For this reason, the dose should be measured accurately, preferably with a syringe, and batches of unknown potency should always be tried with a starting dose of no more than 1 milliliter, or 2 milliliters if you know it is GHB and not GBL. (The former has a fattier texture and a salty flavor, whereas the latter has a solvent-like chemical flavor and will “burn” the mouth noticeably if not strongly diluted.)

    Since it’s easy to misjudge how much of the effect has worn off, especially when taking a high dose that goes from more sedating to more stimulating as it is metabolized, it is recommended that one always keep track of the time when using GHB or GBL. A full stomach can also significantly delay the onset of GHB's effects, making redosing trickier, so one should avoid eating right before taking GHB. This is less of an issue with GBL.

    The most important rules for staying safe when using GHB are:

    1. Never combine GHB with alcohol, opioids or sedatives. This can be lethal.
    2. Never ingest an unknown dose or blindly trust a stranger’s dosing advice.
    3. Always follow a proper redosing protocol, keeping track of the time with a timer.
    4. Always have a friend with you who can keep you safe if you pass out.

    Waiting until the effects are noticable before starting the timer (in case of a delayed onset), you could follow one of two possible redosing protocols for GHB/GBL:

    1. Redose with same amount as the starting dose at 2 hour intervals
    2. Redose with 50 % of starting dose at 1 hour intervals, increasing the time if needed

    Note that continued redosing for many hours can lead to GHB gradually accumulating in the blood due to varying metabolism. This can eventually lead to you passing out. It is therefore wise to limit the total number of doses per session to 3-4 when redosing every 2 hours.

    If you are combining GHB with uppers – which many will do in order to maximize pleasure and prosexual effects, as well as to balance out some of the unwanted effects of each drug type – you should be aware of the following:

    • When the upper wears off, the GHB becomes more sedating. Be mindful of timing.
    • Avoid combining GHB with short-lasting uppers, e.g. cocaine, as this carries a higher risk of GHB overdose. (Be careful with mephedrone as well, especially if slamming.)
    • If you are exhausted from binging on uppers, a GHB overdose will be much more dangerous than if you are rested. Dose carefully if using GHB to sleep.

    To learn more about GHB and GBL and how to use them safely, check out this article.
  • Important things to be aware of when having sex on GHB:
    1 - Don’t underestimate how disinhibiting GHB can be
    Since the high from GHB is much more clear-headed than the high from alcohol, even at sedating doses, it is easy to underestimate one’s level of intoxication. It is important to note that in spite of this clear-headedness, GHB is strongly disinhibiting, meaning that you might agree to things – either certain sexual acts or having sex with certain individuals – that you would not have agreed to sober, even if horny. It can therefore be wise to use GHB only with someone you trust will respect your boundaries – and set some ground rules beforehand.

    2 - Spiking is a thing
    GHB and GBL are often used for spiking, i.e. dosing someone without their consent in order to perform sexual acts on them while they are unconscious. This is not just done by slipping the drug in someone’s drink or giving them a higher dose than they ask for; some have also been dosed rectally with spiked lube. You should therefore bring your own lube to chemsex parties, as well as your own GHB/GBL, and drinks should not be left unattended. (Since you should not be drinking alcohol anyway, a Powerade with a sealed top is a safe choice.)

    3 - Passing out can happen very suddenly
    Since the margin between a recreational dose and a sedating dose of GHB is quite small, and perfect dosing protocols aren’t always followed, people pass out from time to time. This can happen very suddenly, with some “drifting” in and out of consciousness or continuing an activity when waking up as if nothing had happened. It is therefore important to pay attention to your partner and recognize signs of them passing out, to ensure mutual consent at all times. You should also notify your partner if you feel like you have had too much, so they can be more attentive. (If you wait until you feel like passing out, you might not get the chance.)
  • Ketamine
    Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that is not a true “downer” in the sense of being a central nervous system depressant (it is actually a mild stimulant), but is commonly used in recreational settings to ease comedowns and take the “edge” off uppers. In chemsex, ketamine is also used to reduce pain during fisting or other potentially painful activities, as well as in BDSM.

    At moderate doses, ketamine can produce a strange state of consciousness where the self can feel detached or estranged from the body and surroundings and the boundary between one’s own body and someone else’s can become blurred. While it is possible to feel disoriented or confused in this state, and one may experience passing anxiety, this sense of detachment tends to “numb” the user somewhat to threatening situations.

    At higher doses, ketamine’s dissociative properties can produce strong psychedelic experiences that leave the user physically incapacitated and more or less unresponsive to their environment. This can obviously be dangerous in an unsafe setting, and people using ketamine to facilitate rape is not unheard of in or outside the chemsex community.

    As long as one avoids incapacitating doses and/or is in a safe environment, ketamine is a relatively safe drug with a low risk of acute harms other than stumbling and falling. However, it is important to note that ketamine should not be combined with alcohol or GHB/GBL, as this can lead to severe dizziness, disorientation and vomiting with the risk of choking.
  • Benzodiazepines
    Benzodiazepines are a class of potent sedative drugs that include diazepam (Valium/Vival), alprazolam (Xanor/Xanax), flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), clonazepam (Rivotril), oxazepam (Sobril) and many others. So-called z-drugs like zolpidem (Stilnoct/Ambien) and zopiclone (Imovane) are also sometimes considered benzodiazepines due to their comparable effects.

    Benzodiazepines are rarely used as partydrugs, although some use them as a substitute for, or a complement to alcohol. (The latter is not advised, as this combination carries a significant risk of blackouts.) In the chemsex community, the most common alcohol replacement is GHB/GBL, but benzodiazepines may still be used by many to ease comedowns or be able to fall asleep after using uppers.

    It is important to know that benzodiazepines should never be combined with GHB/GBL. This can easily lead to coma, dangerous respiratory depression and even death. (It will also greatly increase the risk of a blackout and irrational behavior if one remains conscious.) If using opioids, benzodiazepines should also be avoided, as this combination can be lethal.

    If using benzodiazepines during chemsex, and not just to handle comedowns or fall asleep afterwards, it is important to note that while benzodiazepines produce disinhibition similar to that of GHB/GBL, if not even greater, they do not have the same prosocial qualities, nor do they allow for the same clear-headedness. This can be problematic, especially when combining with certain uppers, as some may experience a loss of empathy or respect for the boundaries of others, which increases the risk of antisocial behavior. This is particularly dangerous if a partner is using GHB/GBL or ketamine and falls into a highly vulnerable state.

    Do you have any questions about uppers & sex that you feel are not addressed by this article, but should be? Feel free to contact Chemfriendly or Rusopplysningen. Chemfrendly can be reached by e-mail, Facebook or Instagram, or via our profile at Gaysir.no. Rusopplysningen can be reached by e-mail.

    Also, be sure to check out our article on uppers and sex for additional useful information.
Published on: MARCH, 16 / 2018
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