New peer service launches for people who practice sexualised drug use

NSW’s leading LGBTQ health organisation, ACON, has launched a new information and support service for people engaged in sexualised drug use, often termed ‘chemsex’ or ‘party and play’.

Devised and led by peers with lived experiences of sexualised drug use, M3THOD is a free and confidential service for gay and bisexual men (cis and trans), trans women and non-binary people who use either crystal methamphetamine or GHB in combination with sex.

Australian research indicates that nearly 10 per cent of gay and bisexual men report using crystal methamphetamine or GHB in the previous 6 months, with about 85 per cent using these drugs for the purpose of enhancing sex. Among trans and gender diverse people, a 2018 sexual health study led by the Kirby Institute found that 15.8 per cent reported sexualised drug use in the previous 12 months.

“Research has consistently shown elevated rates of sexualised drug use among some sexuality and gender diverse communities. It is important to point out that many people who use drugs in sexual settings are able do so with little to no harm,” ACON CEO Nicholas Parkhill said.

“However, some do and are deserve to tailored support.”

“Many in our communities encounter barriers to accessing health services and we see this among people practising sexualised drug use. Our M3THOD service intends to break down some of those barriers by providing timely and effective peer-led support.

“People who have utilised M3THOD so far have told us that they felt comfortable to share parts of their experience with a peer, feeling safe in the knowledge that peers come with their own lived experiences and are relatable and non-judgmental.”

People can attend a M3THOD appointment either in person or over telehealth and can easily book online. Appointments with peers usually go for about 45 minutes and provide people with an opportunity to explore their relationship with party and play, learn about how they can manage their drug use, and get support for those who want to reduce or change their use.

Sexualised drug use carries several risks to health and wellbeing being and M3THOD has been devised and will be delivered in partnership with NSW based alcohol and other drug and sexual health services.

Parkhill added: “By making our M3THOD service available in sexual health clinics, online and via referrals from our partners, we’re hoping that the service will reach a range of diverse clients. M3THOD is really a person-centred service, and our peers can support people who might want to learn how to stay safe and support those who may wish to change to how frequently they are using.”

“M3THOD aims to empower people to use more safely, to make informed decisions and stay in control of their health and wellbeing.”

Accompanying the M3THOD service is multi-year research project, the M3THOD Study, led by Associate Professor Garrett Prestage from HIV and Epidemiology Program at the Kirby Institute.

“The M3THOD Study follows in the footsteps of the Flux Study, a research project investigating drug and alcohol use among gay and bisexual men that has engaged more than 3000 participants since 2014,” Professor Prestage says.

“Using a similar approach to Flux, the M3THOD study will ask participants to complete regular surveys and data shared will used to inform the process of implementing M3THOD and analyse its effectiveness.”

Parkhill adds: “We’re thrilled to have received this investment from the National Health and Medical Research Council to deliver programs that are so important to our communities.”

“We couldn’t have achieved this without strong collaboration with our study partners, and each of these organisations will work alongside a team of leading drug and alcohol researchers from the University of New South Wales to deliver services and generate insights to inform how we address sexualised drug use among sexuality and gender diverse communities for years to come.”

The M3THOD Study is a collaboration between ACON, The Kirby Institute UNSW, Sydney Sexual Health Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NADA, and Positive Life NSW and is study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

For more information about the M3THOD Service, visit ACON’s Ending HIV page. For more on the study, head to m3thodstudy.org.au


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