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Party Drugs and Sex

A friend (let’s call him Paul) was talking with me about sex recently.  Paul is handsome and sexy, a professional guy in his early 30’s.  He turns heads when he walks into a room.  “I don’t think I’ve ever had sex without being high,” he told me.  He seemed a little startled to hear himself say that.  “I mean, I haven’t really thought about it.  I’m usually rolling when I go out to the clubs.  And I am doing something if I’m going out just looking for sex.”

Paul is not alone; many men use drugs of one sort or another in connection with sex.  Fact is, one of the biggest motivations for getting high or having a drink is to become less self-conscious and to feel sexier.  When we become less inhibited, our sexuality seems less complicated and more powerful.  Chatting someone up is easier.  We’re feeling good and social anxiety disappears.

Sex and drugs each allow us to enter a different sort of headspace.  We’re not as distracted by the ordinary stuff that usually fills our thoughts (work, paying the bills, etc.); we’re more focused on what’s happening right in the moment.  At best, that can lead to the sort of event people talk about as “peak experiences” where everything seems to flow just perfectly.  Our ego boundaries are down.  We feel connected with the guy we’re dancing or having sex with – maybe even feel connected with the whole universe.

The problem with cosmic experiences is that you can’t order them on demand, like ordering a pizza.  So we can end up chasing the experience longer than we should, and working ourselves into a state where we lose our sense of ourselves.  We suddenly find ourselves feeling lost, not blissful.

A night of partying starts out as a lot of fun.  But a long evening mixing too many substances (including alcohol) can turn into something that’s not much fun at all.  We chase the guy we’re seeking and eventually catch him – then find out that we’re no longer up for sex, figuratively or literally.   Many drugs increase the desire for sex, but limit the ability to actually have sex because of erection problems.  Or we’re just in a very different place after long hours of dancing and drugging, and sex feels like something of a chore, not the climax of a great weekend.

Drugs affect sexuality in different ways.  Many men find that ecstasy increases their self-confidence and sense of connection with others; it can make sex seem incandescent.  Like crystal meth or cocaine, it is a stimulant that accelerates the central nervous system.  Depending on the amount taken it can also make users feel panicky or anxious.

These stimulants’ effect on the central nervous system means they can also have a powerful effect on male sexuality.   For instance, these drugs may make sex much more intense the first few times they are used – almost like an aphrodisiac – with time they have the opposite effect.  Sexual arousal shifts and decreases.

Some men find that they never get erections when using ecstasy, or they get aroused but never get off.  There is growing evidence that long-term use of stimulants can cause impotence in some men.

GHB and ketamine are depressants, not stimulants.   Users enjoy a sense of euphoria and sometimes a heightened sense of touch, so the connection with sexual pleasure may seem obvious.  (They share some of these characteristics with another central nervous system depressant, alcohol.)  Unfortunately, GHB, K and alcohol all interfere with male sexual response.

Notice a common theme here?  Almost all drugs have the potential for interfering with erections.  Erections are relatively precarious things, which is one reason why Viagra is popular among many men seeking greater sexual self-confidence.

But what’s the effect of combining Viagra-induced boners and chemically disinhibited brains?  If guys toss poppers into the stew, there is the real possibility of a fatal interaction between Viagra and nitrate inhalers.  And men under the influence are much more likely to think with their dicks – a prescription for riskier sex.  Men using stimulants may find that the sex gets rougher than they intended because they are processing physical sensations differently; they are more likely to wear out a condom or run out of lube.  And guys who know better find it easier to break their own rules about risky sex if they are enjoying the relaxing effects of their favorite substance.

Having sex when our brain chemistry is significantly altered can reinforce the separation between sex and intimacy.  Too often there’s a fine line between being uninhibited being unconscious.  We’re more likely to make bad choices of sexual partners or find ourselves in situations without a clear understanding of how we got there.

How do you know if you’ve got a problem?  Ask yourself:

  • Are friends telling me they are worried about how I am with drugs or sex?
  • How often do I use drugs while having sex?
  • Do I have sex that is riskier than I really want to if I’ve been drinking or using?
  • Am I having trouble starting or maintaining the sort of relationships I want?
  • Am I guilty, ashamed or worried about what I’m doing?

It’s not good sex if you feel injured, guilty or ashamed afterwards.  If you think you may have a problem, get help.  Find a doc or therapist who is knowledgeable and nonjudgmental about both gay sexuality and drug use.

You need someone who will help you sort out what is best for you, not someone who wants to run your life.  Sorting out your choices will help you stay healthy and happy.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.