The Fatal Aphrodisiac: Gay men, sex and drugs
By Nolan Lewis
There is an addictive epidemic that is spreading like wildfire through social media; its icon is the emoji of a green syringe.
Much like an exotic ingredient that adds zest to a flavourful feast, it has always been commonplace for the human animal to seek out potent aphrodisiacs to enhance his sexual prowess. In his pursuit of pleasure, Man has often sought out new means to heighten his sensuality: think a good bottle of vintage wine, Spanish Fly or the more colloquial milk and haldi served to a newly wedded groom by his coquette bride, before their suhaag raat. Especially in the gay community, the homosexual male in his wild partying ways, has oft dabbled in tasting forbidden fruit that comes with the lure of endless pleasure – introduced to him by an experimental lover or a dealer hustling in the corner of a dark, dingy bar.
Poppers are so passé. Any cheeky twink on Grindr will remind you that there is a new designer drug in town that will give you kind of high nothing else can. The anonymity that a hook-up app has to offer also ensures that you can openly declare your status as a chem user and even find vendors who hustle stuff without the risk of running into a cop or attracting any legal trouble. The sign to look out for is a green syringe emoji that connotes one’s allegiance to Mephedrone. It is alarming to note the green icons dotting the interface of any gay dating app spread like wildfire, indicative of a new epidemic that is plaguing many of our LGBT brothers and sisters. The experimentation begins merely with seeking a recreational high but often ends as flirting with danger, and as is the case with most addictions – the drug usually wins.
A lot like Viagra but even better! That is how Sujay*, (32) who was struggling with maintaining a hard-on due to erectile dysfunction during the act, was introduced to the wonder drug by a one night stand that he was randomly hooking up with. “The results were instant! I’ve never had stiffer wood, I can keep having wild sex for hours on end and the best part is, I had become a sexual recluse because of the medical problems I was facing. I was even made fun of, because I couldn’t maintain an erection. Now, everyone I screw thinks I am Adonis.”
This is why Mephedrone trumps over substances like Ecstasy and Crystal Meth which induce an identical high. Plus, its components are cheap chemicals that are available over-the-counter (it was initially manufactured as fertiliser before its psychogenic uses were stumbled on) which make it very easy for it to be homegrown. A dealer could be anyone from a slum dweller in Dharavi to a renegade pharmacist – you can procure a few grams in little more than a hundred bucks. Small surprise but its affordability is well within the means of an average teenagers allowance, which is why many of its early victims are adolescents who fake their age on Tinder or Grindr.
Mephedrone can either be snorted, like a line of Coke or injected intravenously. There have even been cases of urchins chewing it with paan masala. Ray* (19 ) was having problems bottoming for his boyfriend, Joshua* (20) due to his partner’s exceptional girth. The couple had been slamming the drug for a few months now and were aware of its capacity to numb sensations. On a lark, they decided to use the crushed powder instead of lube and for the first time, Ray could accommodate Joshua, wholly. The problem is that while Mephedrone can numb, it can also desensitise a muscle completely to the effect that one will not be able to discern pleasure from pain. The next day, Ray had to be hospitalised for a ruptured sphincter.
When Irfan* (21) was institutionalised by his parents for snorting Mephedrone, he was a shadow of his usual self. A student and part-time model, Irfan had become a skeletal bag of bones, with dark circles under his eyes and a chronic case of nose bleeds. Apart from failing grades and constantly playing truant in college, he had also started stealing money from home. Irfan’s parents were always at odds accepting their son’s sexuality, given their conservative Islamic background but they started seeing red flags when his mom discovered a polythene bag filled with crushed crystals hidden among the toiletries in his bathroom.
I am slightly disillusioned by six of the drug helplines I’ve called – they either turn cold when I admit I am a gay man on the other end of the line or don’t understand how Mephedrone has invaded social media. I understand the double jeopardy of being an LGBT addict. Coming out a closet is tough enough, imagine having to come out to two – both of which could have dire consequences! My saving grace comes in the shape of Ashok Row Kavi, the father of Indian homosexuality who pioneered the Indian LGBT movement. He directs me Eldrid Tellis, the founder of Sankalp, a drug detox facility based in Charni Road and an ally of the LGBT community.
Tellis has an aura of a Catholic priest – a confidante you can pour your heart out to at a confessional. Despite his staunch Christian upbringing, he is sans homophobia when we discuss the matter at hand and the way out. Though milder in its implications, Eldrid does admit that Mephedrone can have fatal consequences. He informs me that Mephedrone isn’t specifically a ‘gay’ drug and is even a popular poison in high schools and educational institutions regularly request him to conduct seminars for their teenage students.
“Overcoming an addiction happens over two phases,“ Tellis explains, “There is a detoxification programme that requires for the drug to be physically flushed out off the body to facilitate recovery that can last anywhere between a week to a fortnight. That is followed by Rehabilitation that facilitated through counselling by a psychiatrist. A drug addiction is always triggered by a host of psychological, emotional and esteem issues that need to be addressed at a core level to ensure one does not revert to abusing the drug again, eventually.”
The Rehabilitation is free and the Detox costs Two Thousand Indian Rupees to defray lodging and medical charges, which is next to nothing. Sankalp feels like a ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel. I feel a huge burden being lifted off my shoulders as I leave the center. Imagine that in two weeks, which amounts to almost as long as a vacation, is all you need for life to give you a second chance. An opportunity to begin anew, a chance to claim redemption from the Devil…
A closet within a closet
No, you won’t hear of the cases of the LGBT youngsters who succumb to an overdose, or those who commit suicide when a high gets you really low – and you won’t hear of it for a long time to come unless a dear friend or family member becomes one of its victims and you have firsthand experience of how a seemingly innocuous drug can corrode the very fibre of your soul– because like many gay men, most drug users also hide in closets, bogged down by feelings of guilt and shame that accompany their addiction.
Except that in the case of the latter, a closet can double up as a coffin.
(Names have been changed to protect confidentiality)