Chemsex experiences: narratives of pleasure

Maitena Milhet (French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction, Paris, France)
Jalpa Shah (Paris, France)
Tim Madesclaire (Paris, France)
Laurent Gaissad (EVCAU/ENSA Paris Val-de-Seine, Paris, France)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Publication date: 4 March 2019



The purpose of this paper is to understand the dynamics of pleasure related to chemsex from the perspective of French gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Recognising that participants in chemsex are social actors, the authors diverge from the prominent “pathology paradigm” used in public health.


In-depth interviews were conducted with gay men and other MSM engaging in chemsex via snowball sampling (n=33). The authors explored the definitions of pleasure and the role of stimulants, sexual activity, smartphones and partners in chemsex pleasures.


Chemsex pleasures encompass multiple dimensions that go far beyond bodily pleasures, such as love or romantic relationships, socializing with significant others and sexual discovery through disinhibition. Narratives of pleasure were also, simultaneously, stories of suffering and distress. This dissonance can pose challenges to the participants in chemsex, their entourages and care providers.

Practical implications

Given that the focus of care for gay men and other MSM is on risk behaviors, the findings of this paper help nurture discussions where pleasure is integrated into a new, value-neutral framework of care that incorporates chemsex pleasures.


This study examined the perspectives of those actually participating in chemsex, allowing gay men and other MSM to relate the entirety of their experiences, in which pleasure is often at the forefront, without restriction.



Milhet, M., Shah, J., Madesclaire, T. and Gaissad, L. (2019), "Chemsex experiences: narratives of pleasure", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 11-22.

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