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Explainer

What is slamming? How the act of injecting drugs during gay sex is rising in popularity

James Page April 18, 2018

‘Slamming’ is the term used to describe the action of injecting drugs in a recreational setting, typically in relation to gay and bisexual men.

The act of slamming is often stigmatised in the gay community and research has found strong links between the injection of substances like crystal meth and mephedrone, and contracting HIV.

The act of slamming is not actually illegal, but the drugs being used are, although the queer community takes a sympathetic stance on slamming with many health clinics providing safe use kits to minimise the spread of infection.

Slamming is often practised in a sexual context to increase a user’s libido, often allowing individuals to engage in sexual intercourse for long-periods of time.

The term specifically relates to the injecting of drugs rather than the swallowing or snorting of substances which is more common at most chemsex parties.

Slamming gives the user a greater high when compared to more common practices of taking chems, however health bodies have warned that the trend could be linked to the rise of HIV infection rates in England.

PinkNews talked to David Stuart, who manages the chemsex support services at sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street. Stuart has been raising awareness for safer ways for gay and bisexual men to engage in slamming since its growing popularity.

 

Stuart said: “Slamming is a faster and more powerful way to affect the receptors in our brains, creating a greater high.

“So for some people who use drugs, and who seek a greater high as their use develops, it can be a natural evolution”.

Although referred to as ‘slamming’ in the gay community, the term has other names which are more recognisable to a universal audience – such as ‘shooting-up’ and ‘blasting’.

“Slamming is no more popular among gay communities than injecting is within other communities. It just has a different name, and it is used in sexual contexts, which can make for scandalous headlines,” Stuart said.

Many of the risks of injecting drugs come from the sharing of needles used to ‘slam’ and these risks only increase when the drugs are being used in a heightened sexual environment.

A spokesperson for Public Health England told The Independent: “This is a serious health issue that is driving poor sexual and mental health, as well as the transmission and acquisition of HIV and other blood-borne viruses… especially in the context of sex parties, where unprotected sex may occur.”

Why has slamming become more popular?

According to research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, three times as many gay and bisexual men in London inject drugs (or ‘slam’) than in England as a whole.

Although slamming is practised by a small percentage of gay and bisexual men in the chem scene, with David Stuart commenting the act “is only practised by an approximate 15 percent of people who engage in chemsex,” it has become a more visible trend in recent years.

Stuart explained, “It has become more popular recently, because of the rise of chemsex, because the drugs we use have changed, because the contexts in which we used the drugs have changed.

“Within any community that uses addictive drugs, there will be a drift toward injecting as people develop resistance to the drug, and seek greater highs.”

With the use of drug terminology, such as slamming, being so visible on dating apps, some experts suggest that many gay and bisexual men are becoming desensitised to the dangers of drug abuse.

Stuart told The Independent: “It’s become somewhat destigmatised… You can go on Grindr or other apps … and you can see the world of slamming is glamorised.

“A man will say: ‘Yeah, I slam.’ But if you ask him if he’s an addicted drug user, he’ll say: ‘F**k off’.”

 

Grindr (Leon Neal/Getty Images)
(Leon Neal/Getty)

This disassociation between slamming and drug abuse suggests users feel free of the stigma when injecting substances in group situations for sex.

Other research suggests that the popularity of slamming is linked to loneliness and a lack of belonging in the gay community.

Dr Jamie Hakim – a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, interviewed several participants of slamming sessions for the Independent.

One of the fifteen participants interviewed said:  “In a way, you’re enjoying a private club… everyone thinks the same as you think.

“You don’t have to worry about anything because you’re going to be in an environment where you feel safe and whatever you do, whatever you think, whatever you say you’ll be very much accepted.”

What are the main dangers of slamming?

With many gay and bisexual men engaging in slamming to facilitate a sexual experience, it has been linked to rising rates of HIV.

David Stuart noted that: “Hepatitis C and HIV are both sexually transmitted infections within gay communities that can also be transmitted via poor injecting techniques”.

With slamming sessions often being large groups of men, sharing needles is often one of the main causes of spreading blood-borne infections and viruses such as HIV.

Australian sexual support website Touchbase warns that many men who engage in slamming are too easy to assume that a needle is clean.

They state: “You can’t always see blood, so don’t assume that just because you can’t see it that it isn’t there”.

(Getty)

Participants of slamming sessions may also be more likely to carry out unprotected sex with other men, which further leads to an increased risk of contracting HIV and other infections.

Taku Mukiwa, head of health improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “While drugs can help to make you feel more confident and less inhibited, they can also cloud your judgement and decision-making abilities.”

The injection of substances, such as crystal meth, has also had strong links to addiction and drug dependence.

Stuart explained that “mephedrone and methamphetamine (the most commonly ’slammed’ drugs) both have strong potential for psychological dependency, and this potential is greater when injected.

“And because slamming is often done in sexual contexts, dopamine release is combined with the neurochemistry of sexual arousal, doubling the addictive potential.”

Many users may also have difficulty in becoming aroused without injecting, making it increasingly addictive in a sexual context.

Stuart added that the mistreatment of these drugs can also lead to extreme mental health issues.

“More gay men in our communities are hearing stories of friends, or friends of friends, who are being sectioned under the mental health act because of chems, in numbers that we never saw before chemsex and slamming became more popular.

“Of course not all people who use these drugs are prone to these symptoms, but injecting chems increases that likelihood significantly.”

Why more education is needed

Services such as 56 Dean Street and The Burrell Sexual Health Clinic have recognised the need to support gay and bisexual men who use hardcore drugs.

David Stuart has been raising awareness for safer practices of slamming and chemsex throughout his career. He explained: “a particular skill set is required to reduce the harms of slamming…

“But there is also a lot of incorrect harm reduction information being shared by word of mouth, so I recommend that anyone who engages in chemsex or slamming who cares about themselves and their partners, acquire this skill set from a trusted source.”

(Getty)

Burrell Street hand out packs of clean syringes, spoons and thermometers for gay and bisexual men who use hardcore drugs to reduce the risk of needle sharing.

The kits contain colour-coded needles so each user can easily see which is their’s, lessening the chance of using someone else’s.

“If your city doesn’t have a gay men’s drug and alcohol support service, I’d ask at my local sexual health clinic first, because it’s better to get help from someone who understands gay sex”, Stuart explained.

More: chemsex, drugs, gay sex, slamming

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