Nearly everyone uses some non-prescription drugs. A can of Red Bull to perk us up, a cigarette to calm us down, or a stiff drink after a hard day. But compared to the general population, gay men tend to use different drugs, larger amounts of them and for longer. A lot of this is due to us spending longer in clubs and bars than straight people and taking drugs is not seen as a big deal by many of us. Compared to heterosexuals, drugs often play a bigger role in our sex lives. They might also act as a way of coping with the stress of living in a world that can still have a problem with our sexuality.

Why we take them?

‘Chems’, ‘gear’, ‘party favours’, ‘PnP’ (party ‘n’ play, ‘pills ‘n’ poppers); whatever you call them, each one of us has our reasons for taking them:

  • to relax…or get excited
  • to feel sociable and part of the group
  • to increase our self-confidence
  • to feel sexier and perform better sexually
  • to lower our stress levels
  • to escape from reality or make it seem more exciting.


Effects of drugs

Once they get inside you most drugs go into your blood stream, which takes the drug to your brain. There it triggers different responses, changing heart beat, blood pressure, liver or kidney function, mood and how you see, hear or feel things. Reactions differ from person to person or hit to hit.

Other things that make a difference are:

  • how much you take
  • how you take it (swallow, snort, smoke or inject)
  • how you’re feeling before taking it
  • what you might take with it
  • how used you are to the drug.


You can’t be sure every time exactly what you’re getting or the effect it will have because street drugs aren’t made using a standard recipe or ingredients. They are often cut with other drugs or contain impurities.

Drug types

Drugs tend to be grouped according to the effect they have on our body. It’s important to understand which drug is which because, if mixing them, taking two of the same kind increases chances of a dangerous reaction.

Depressants (‘downers’)

These slow down your body’s functions. You feel more relaxed, your heart and breathing slow down, you might feel less awake, your speech gets slurred, your movements get clumsy, etc.

Examples include:  

Stimulants (‘uppers’)

These speed up your body’s functions. You feel more alert, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up, you might feel jumpy, grind your teeth, etc. and afterwards feel ‘down’.

Examples include:

Psychoactive/hallucinogenic or dissociative drugs

These change or distort how you see, hear or feel things.

Examples are:

This article was last reviewed on: 28/10/11
Date due for next review: 28/10/14