Chemsex, identity processes and coping among gay and bisexual men

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Chemsex constitutes a significant public health concern among gay and bisexual men (GBM). Using the identity process theory, this study focuses on GBM’s motivations for engaging in chemsex and the functions that the practice performs for constructing a positive sense of self and for coping with psychological stress. Design/methodology/approach: Sixteen GBM were interviewed, and the qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Findings: Individuals reported facing various stressors, such as homonegativity, rejection and HIV stigma, which were threatening for self-esteem and distinctiveness. There was habitual use of deflection (e.g. denial and self-concealment) for coping with these stressors. Chemsex enabled some interviewees to engage in more elaborate forms of deflection, such as transient depersonalization, compartmentalization and fantasy. Originality/value: In contrast to the risk-focused analyses of chemsex, this study provides a novel identity-based approach to understanding GBM’s motivations for engaging in chemsex and focuses on the functions that chemsex may perform for identity processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-355
Number of pages11
JournalDrugs and Alcohol Today
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2021


  • Chemsex
  • Coping
  • Deflection
  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Identity
  • Psychology


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