An addiction therapist and counsellor in London, Mike Power, sheds light on this crisis crawling on the streets and clubs of London.
The culture of chemsex has been prevalent in the United States, Australia and the UK for a long time now. Mike believes that there is a gap among therapists to handle chemsex clients.
He said, “That kind of inspired me to be a bit of an activist, I suppose. I’ve seen it in the United States. I’ve seen it in Australia and it’s coming to London, and I thought, I want to do what I can to save London.”
Chemsex is the usage of drugs to enhance a sexual experience, and it mostly occurs in MSM relationships. There are three commonly used drugs in Chem sex, Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth), Mephedrone (Meth) and GHB/GBL (Gamma Hydroxybutyrate/Gamma Butyrolactone).
These drugs are usually smoked or injected, where needles are shared and unsafe sexual practices take place. Which carries the risk of exposing one to HIV or Hepatitis C.
After a tragic event took place in his life, he shifted his focus to chemsex. He said, “There was one good friend and two people that I’d worked with that died in the space of a year. They were all 35 or three of them died of a heart attack.
People who use steroids often have heart problems, add a powerful drug like methamphetamine, and you’ve got the recipe for disaster.”
There’s a certain sense of passion Mike has towards healing chemsex that I could feel as an interviewer. He really stands for the lack of awareness people have about it. And he feels strongly towards the cause for a very soulful reason.
I admired his fearlessness to admit having been down that road in the past as he said, “I had a colourful life. My reason for taking drugs wasn’t specifically for drugs, I just wanted to escape and get wasted.
But I found my own recovery while travelling. I started going to meetings in Los Angeles and in Australia, I went to rehab. I was just travelling around the world to make my life less colourful and change every aspect of my life.
In my interview with him, we dove into several reasons behind why men who have sex with men feel the need to go the extra dangerous mile. We discussed possibilities of it being a deep sense of shame or rejection.
It’s apps like Grindr that has become a hot spot for the exposure of chemsex. Or even used as a medium to liberate one’s trauma through chemsex by making it easily accessible.
To add to that, Mike said, “I started to understand how complex chemsex is. Chemsex is often a symptom of something much, much deeper trauma. It could be trauma, minority stress, internalised homophobia, body dysmorphia, sexual anxiety, AIDS and HIV, the epidemic and the belief systems, and that’s created within the community.
After going to the University of Bath for four years, Mike had four or five placements during his degree. He worked at the LGBT and generic drug and alcohol services.
He also worked at the sexual health clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital in London and is now an LGBT+ Addiction Counsellor.
He has an abundance of experience in this field, but also in life, he wishes to help people with the wisdom he gained from travelling the world.
Which illuminates a very grounding and humbling aura to him that makes anyone want to instantly open up to him. And it reflects the sincerity of his work.
To want to save people, heal people and to keep the conversation going about the horrors of chemsex.
He talks about his process with his clients to OutNewsGlobal.
Mike said, “It’s a real deep sense of loneliness with a real need for intimacy. With a real fear of vulnerability that intimacy takes. I have to create a connection, an instant connection that dispels all those fears. To be intimate but not intimate.”
Meth is the kind of drug that creates this instant intimacy for people to enjoy for a brief period. It induces a false sense of confidence, desired sexuality and a feeling of being invincible. At the cost of it robbing the user’s natural ability to feel these aspects within themselves.
Mike classifies his clients into three categories; problematic, very problematic and dependency. The very problematic and dependency stage is when a person is really hooked on the drug. The behaviour associated with sex and the drug are confused as one.
He shared his approach to handling these stages and said, “Imagine a bronze ruts being twisted into a big knot. And remember these sessions happen weekly, not daily. Part of the treatment as a therapist is to untangle the twisted ruts and it’s hard, it requires a lot of patience and vulnerability from the client.”
The treatment Mike offers is roughly between 8-12 weeks, depending on the consistency and progress made by the client.
Uncovering the layers of sexual identity, sexual fantasies, what they like and what they’d like to do. And he works on redfining intimacy with them.
As the client moves out of this zone and is ready to explore organic intimacy, Mike speaks about his breakdown of cycles.
He said, “I came up with a cycle called erotic desire cycle, to build connection. And what is connection, it’s transparency and boundaries with sex on a first date. Or if it’s casual, to ask for a more meaningful experience. We all have oxytocin, that needs to create a bond with someone where there’s longevity and not just a quick release.
And as the relationship thickens with someone else, the oxytocin builds and they feel like hanging out more with the person. Which creates a secondary erotic desire cycle, I call it the double whammy. It’s where you have sex, you have orgasms and the primal parts of sex goes down. Maybe just touching and talking, being a bit more vulnerable, there’s something about that that creates a sexual desire.”
After digging into the mind of a therapist, it’s established that we need more counsellors who specialise in chemsex in the UK.
Mike couldn’t agree more and expressed his concerns for the younger clients who have never experienced intimacy. And for chemsex to become a dangerous epidemic in the UK if people aren’t aware about it or know how to reach out for help.
He is part of a small community of counsellors that addresses chemsex cases and his purpose is to spread the word. He believes more therapists need to train to handle chemsex clients and not just drugs and alcohol addictions.
Due to his own experiences, he wishes to give back to his community. To use his knowledge and empathy and reignite the essence of a healthy relationship with oneself and with others.
In conclusion Mike said, “That’s what people who’ve had chemsex are looking for. They’re looking for longevity, they’re looking for safety, they’re looking for eroticism and they’re looking for a way to be vulnerable. To believe in human connection.”
CLICK HERE to book an appointment with Mike Power.
If you or someone you know wishes to contact Mike for enquiries, here are his details;
Bsc in Addiction Science and Counselling
Fdsc Addiction Counselling FDAP (reg.)
Mobile: (+44) (0) 7535 394979
For more information and resources for chemsex, be sure to follow Mike’s blog on Medium at: https://michaelpower-81144.medium.com/an-explorations-of-societal-factors-that-may-influence-a-lgbtq-persons-belief-system-831972cfcc11