Partners, friends and relatives

Chemsex issues in your immediate environment can be poignant and deeply affect you. Friends and family can experience intense anxiety, sadness, shame, and negative emotions such as incomprehension, anger, and helplessness. This can cause tension. Regular communication with mutual respect is an important step in moving forward, but when and how do you have the conversation?

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How do you have a conversation about it with a loved one?

Only talk when the other person is sober. Never start the conversation when you are riled up or angry.  

Always communicate face-to-face; avoid doing it over the phone and never through WhatsApp or online. 

Start the conversation by saying you find it difficult to broach the subject. Make it clear that you are concerned.

Ask open-ended questions about the appeal of chemsex or drug use. Let them speak. Do not tear them down, but reinforce their self-image. If they think too negatively about themselves, it can often be a trigger to use.   

Do not judge. Try to talk openly about drug use. The other person is often aware of the negative effects and struggles with helplessness, frustration, shame and guilt as a result.

Be aware that you can never force someone to reduce their use or quit; it is their responsibility.

If they are not ready to quit or reduce their use, you will have to accept that, no matter how difficult that may be. A behaviour change often occurs when the loved one distances themself more or takes a big step back.

Do you live together? You can only continue a relationship if both parties want to change. You stop “worrying”, and the other person reduces their use or quits.

Do not respond with harsh opinions, views and reproaches. Do not use empty threats. Avoid an argumentative atmosphere.

Show understanding and be patient. Be aware that it is not easy to quit chemsex. It can be quite frightening for someone to imagine life without it; friendships have often been formed around it. A life without chemsex can seem like a barren desert.

Think of desired behavioural changes you struggle with, such as nail biting, losing weight or binging TV shows. This can often help you understand why it is so difficult to reduce or quit chemsex.