5. Sex without chems

Building a sex life without drugs is often one of the biggest challenges if you have primarily or only had sex with chems for a long time. Sex and chems often become inseparable. Learning to enjoy sex without chems again takes time, commitment, patience and creativity.

Sex without drugs: boring?

A common complaint from former drug users is that “normal” sex has become boring. They have difficulty getting aroused. This is mainly because the brain’s chemistry is out of balance. Chems deliver a huge dopamine boost to the brain. The longer and heavier your drug use, the longer it will take for your brain to recover and allow you to enjoy sex without chems again. This can take anywhere from several months to more than a year.

A variety of emotional aspects also play an important role. Many use chems to feel more confident and free or to forget certain things for a while. This could be HIV or hepatitis C, ageing or struggling with sexual orientation or needs. Chems may enable you to do things you would never dare to do otherwise. If you stop using chems, you will have to find ways to manage without.



A life without drug use also means a sex life without chems. Let go of the thought of having sex with chems in the future. This only heightens cravings and can lead to relapse. Some people experience letting go as a grieving process and go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


“Maybe I don’t really need to stop at all.”


“I just want to fucking use chems!”


“One evening a month should be doable, right?”


“I will never be able to have normal sex again.”


“I am okay without chems. My sex life will be good again.”

Other sex

Quitting chems can feel like something has been lost or taken from you. Try to remember that your sexual experiences during chemsex were extreme—experiences that would never have occurred without drugs. Try not to think of sex without drugs as boring or tame. The emotional connection you felt while high was caused by the chems. It may have felt like you were deeply connected to your sexual partner, but people often say afterwards that it doesn’t matter who the sexual partner is when under the influence. When you have sex without chems, it’s not a watered-down version of sex under the influence; it is something else entirely. There is the challenge of making a real connection with your sexual partner(s), for example.


The right time to start having sex without chems depends a lot on your situation.

How much craving do you experience? How much support do you have? Are you in a relationship? If you already had a satisfying sex life and handled intimacy well before you started chems, you have those experiences to fall back on. If you struggled with that, your task now is greater. In that case, consider talking to a sex therapist.


No sex for a while

Just thinking about sex can make you want to call the dealer. Are you often horny? Does that make you feel like using all the time? Some people fearfully avoid sex because of this. If you find that the thought of sex immediately triggers cravings, it is a good idea not to have sex for the time being. Some people simply do not feel like having sex after quitting. After a period of having only had chemsex, they put sex on the back burner for a while—sometimes even for a year or more. Abstinence allows them to focus fully on recovery and avoid situations that trigger cravings. This gives the brain time to recover. It can even be a relief not to have sex for a while.

New sexual experiences

The idea of having sex while sober makes many former users nervous and sometimes even anxious. Do not let this fear take control. If you keep putting off sex without chems, it may become an almost impossible task over time. Unless you swear off sex completely, you will have to take this step at some point. Give yourself time and space, and do not expect to have great sex right away.

Others who stop chemsex do not want to put their sex life on hold. They cannot imagine not having sex for a while. Be aware that sex can trigger you to use chems again; relapse is just around the corner. However, it is not necessarily wrong to experiment with sex again quickly. By having sexual experiences without drugs, you learn about new possibilities and make new connections in your brain.