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More than a quarter of users of chemsex drug GHB have been sexually assaulted, shocking research finds

Nick Duffy September 6, 2019
The Dispatches documentary sheds light on the risks around use of GHB

The Dispatches documentary sheds light on the risks around use of GHB

More than a quarter of people who use chemsex drug GHB have been sexually assaulted, according to new research.

The findings come from a major survey of gay male GHB users, conducted by Channel 4 Dispatches, Patrick Strudwick for BuzzFeed News and the Terrence Higgins Trust for new documentary Sex, Drugs and Murder.

Two thirds of the 2,700 gay men who take G who responded said they’d had serious problems with the drug, such as addiction, overdosing or sexual assault.

The findings reveal that more than a quarter of users reported being sexually assaulted, and one in four G users said they knew of someone who had died as a result of using this drug,

Almost half of G users had overdosed and passed out from the drug, but most respondents were unaware that snoring could be a critical warning sign that someone is slipping into a lethal coma.

Stephen Morris, chemsex and crime lead in the HM Prison & Probation Service, revealed to Dispatches that there are groups of men seeking out chemsex situations to coordinate serious offences.

They are planning, grooming and commissioning their offences using the dark web and internet, including incidents where the sexual abuse has been live-streamed.

The documentary sheds light on fears that the recreational use of the drug by gay men could be killing hundreds of people per year, with deaths receiving little attention aside from the widely-publicised case of serial killer Stephen Port, who used the drug to murder his victims.

Official statistics ‘underestimate’ deaths from chemsex drugs.

Dr Owen Boden-Jones, founder of the Club Drug Clinic in London, said: “The one thing that’s really distinct though, about GHB, is the small difference between the amount a user takes to get the desired effect and the amount that causes an overdose.

“There are some national statistics and those national statistics show that over the last decade, the number of people who die with GHB detected in their system, is around 20 per year.

“Now; that is probably a very large underestimate and the reason for that is when there’s a death, there’s not always the toxicology done to detect to see if GHB is there.”

GHB is a Class C drug in the UK.

However, it is still sold for use as a cleaning supply, and Dispatches readily found large quantities easily available to buy anonymously online in a few clicks.

GHB findings are ‘tip of the iceberg’.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Brian Paddick, who used to be the highest ranking out gay police officer in the Met, revealed to Dispatches that he lost his former partner to a G overdose.

Former police commander Brian Paddick opened up about the impact of chemsex drugs on his life
Former police commander Brian Paddick opened up about the impact of chemsex drugs on his life (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

He said: “At the inquest, when the person who was at the venue said that they heard him snoring, so they let him sleep on the sofa, the coroner interrupted and said, ‘If somebody’s taken G and they start snoring that’s a sign that their respiratory system is shutting down. That is the time to call the ambulance.’

“From talking to people, it’s extremely widespread. The whole problem is a reluctance – even among the families of those who’ve died from an overdose of G; not wanting to talk about it.

“But bearing in mind the number of deaths that there – that we do know about and how common taking G is; then, I think we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

“The gay community is fighting all the time in terms of rights. When I was born it was illegal to be gay; I was bullied at school because people basically knew that I was gay. And so, there is a reluctance for the gay community to admit that they have perhaps more of a drug problem than—than the heterosexual community.”

Sex Drugs and Murder airs on Channel 4 on September 8 at 11pm.

More: chemsex, dispatches, gay sex, GHB, Patrick Strudwick, Terrence Higgins Trust

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