Injecting drug use amongst London’s gay community appears to be on the rise, with the Antidote/CODE Clinic on the top floor of 56 Dean Street’s Sexual Health Centre, and the Club Drug Clinic at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, reporting huge increases in patients who are injecting (or “slamming”) crystal methamphetamine (“Tina”) and/or mephedrone. Tony Kirby reports this week on the experiences of two injecting drug users, who wish to remain anonymous due to the shame and stigma associated with injecting drug use. 


John (not his real name) aged 27, was exposed to drugs at an early age, as one of his parents had been a cocaine addict and left drugs lying around the house. John tried ecstasy for the first time aged 13. “It was when I went clubbing in Vauxhall from my late teens that my drug use really took off,” he says. “I tried G for the first time aged 18, and by 19 I had smoked crystal.” Over the next few years, John became addicted to G, something he is still battling today. Despite this, he managed to remain HIV negative and largely practice safe sex. But in the last 12 months, his use of crystal has soared, and 6 months ago, while at a sex party in Kennington, he slammed for the first time. “I’d watched a friend do it a few months before I tried it, but at the time I was pretty disgusted by it all because the high looked too much. He didn’t seem to have a clue what was going on and was making a complete dick of himself at a chill out trying to shag everything. But then eventually I thought, why not try it once?”

Slamming involves dissolving either crystal or mephedrone in water before injecting it into yourself or someone else. Disturbingly, some people are slamming using their own or other people’s blood. John has never slammed using blood, but has slammed using the water method six times since that first occasion. In December, he received the news that he was HIV positive. “I wouldn’t like to blame crystal for my diagnosis because I think a lot of positive people blame other people or drugs for their status when one needs to take responsibility for their own actions and sexual activities. However, I have always had an active sex life with between 5 and 10 sexual partners a week yet managed to remain HIV negative – it was only when my crystal use increased, smoking or slamming, that the condom use went out of the window.” He adds that a person’s HIV/Hepatitis C status is rarely, if ever, discussed, especially not Hepatitis C which has so much stigma attached to it, even among HIV positive men. “Assumptions are always made with barebacking sex and sex parties, either by one or more parties involved in the act and this is where a big part of the problem lies,” says John.

John says slamming offers a different, more intense kind of high than smoking crystal. Slamming causes the effects of the drug to keep returning in surges, with the effects of a ‘decent’ slam lasting up to eighteen hours. The slamming parties he has attended involve people sneaking off to the bathroom to slam on their own, not wanting to admit they are (mostly) addicts or share their crystal, or admit that they are slamming. The next person will go into the bathroom and do the same thing. He puts his own progression to slamming down to seeking an even greater high. “As with all drugs, tolerance builds after time, but particularly if you do something for days on end, many of the effects of the drug from the old days I remember just don’t happen anymore, so slamming would appear to be a natural progression.”

Regarding HIV and Hepatitis C rates in London, he fears for the future. “I imagine the infection rates have gone up already, but failure of many users to go to the clinic and get tested would mean that it would be hard to tell yet.”

“People who slam can’t be happy with themselves”

Andy, 29 (again a false name), ended a four year relationship in 2005 when he discovered London’s gay drug club scene. “All day clubbing was totally new to me,” he recalls. “Suddenly, I was out every weekend. Sometimes every night for four nights in a row. Then, in 2007, people started to withdraw a bit and hold more parties at home, which then turned into sex parties.” When mephedrone emerged in 2009, Andy found the weekend started Thursday night and would go to work Friday with very little sleep, often taking it at work to keep himself awake. Then three years ago, he encountered people smoking crystal at a chill out and peer pressure sucked him into trying it. “This is the dark side to the gay scene that many people don’t see,” he says. “I never knew how to smoke properly, to inhale and keep it in, but I was taught how to smoke it properly with a tina pipe. As soon as I smoked it I lost all my inhibitions. It wasn’t me doing those things. I was ashamed when I came down off the high.” Andy says that even when you try to have a break from crystal, the dealers will often call you up to ask you why you aren’t buying anymore. He has had several numbers blocked from calling him as a result.

The era of Gaydar and smartphone apps like Grindr mean that it’s very easy to find a Tina party even if you have none of your own. “If people are talking about a crystal party on Grindr, they put a capital T in parTy, to show that Tina is being used there.” There is a slamming community across Vauxhall, Oval, Clapham, and Brixton that Andy has met up with many times. But it was at an East London New Year party three years ago that he tried it for the first time. “Peer pressure, combined with lack of sleep, meant my judgement was totally warped,” he says. “So I let some guys who had already slammed slam me also. Five days later, I still had not slept, and went to work, and came home even then horny and desperate for sex; people who I would not normally be attracted to seemed attractive, I just could not get enough and put myself in situations where anything could happen.”

On another occasion he arrived at a sex party to find the other three guys present had slammed both crystal and mephedrone already, and was told it was best for him to do it to so he would be ‘at the same level’. When he declined, he was asked to leave. “I was finding more and more that a few drinks, or drugs like ecstasy or cocaine, just weren’t enough and I was wanting a bigger high,” says Andy. He was regularly finding parties or saunas, where the crystal is initially offered for free to get you hooked. He also says it’s easy to find crystal users and barebacking on websites such as BBRT (bareback real time). “It’s a real mixture of people doing slamming, including professional gay guys with lots of income,” he says. “The safe sex messages have been lost. People are using sex toys on each other, not cleaning them. People are also meant to bring their own packs of injecting equipment, but it doesn’t always happen.”

Disturbingly, Andy says that his experience of crystal in saunas, whether it be slamming or smoking, often involves some kind of kingpin older man, who grooms the guys he wants to have in the room with him by offering them free crystal. “One guy I saw doing this said he was HIV negative,” says Andy. “He slammed, then got fucked unprotected.” Andy has seen plenty of people lose jobs, friends, as well as losing lots of weight and looking like shadows of their former selves, as well as the other signs like bruises on the arms. While he has managed to hold on to his career, he has not fulfilled his potential. He also suffers really bad anxiety after binge weekends, related to missed opportunities in his career and his guilt for neglecting genuine friends.

He was diagnosed as HIV positive just over two years ago and thinks crystal was a major contributor in him being infected. This was a real wake up call, and he managed to stop taking crystal for about eighteen months before relapsing six months ago.“I’ve not slammed for three months now, but temptation is never far away. I’ve deleted Grindr and other meeting apps, and only my friend has my iTunes password so I can’t reload those apps in moments of desperation… I have to give my phone to my friend to download anything I genuinely need.”

Andy is seeing a psychotherapist on a weekly basis at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to help deal with his problems. “People who slam can’t be happy with themselves,” he says. “I think there will be an explosion of cases of both HIV and Hepatitis C because of slamming and smoking crystal. Everyone who I’ve ever met who used crystal is barebacking. Even at parties where people declare their status, some say their viral load is undetectable and you cannot catch anything leading you into a false sense of security to have unprotected sex. People who use crystal in my experience never use protection and we need to understand why and help people stop.”



On Saturday 16th March I was a very last minute entrant to the Mr Eagle London 2013 contest. I was totally shocked when it was announced I had won. Part of the prize was cash. This week I made a donation of £250 of that cash to Antidote to raise awareness of its services.
Four-and-a-half years ago I was addicted to Crystal Meth. I was injecting, smoking and snorting. I was a mess. I had lost my job. Towards the end, I was just doing drugs mostly alone, in my flat in front of a computer screen and/or a webcam, I could not even venture out. I had lost any sense of identity, any self-respect, self-esteem or confidence.

Eventually I sought help and was put in touch with drugs counseling services and passed to Antidote. I was a broken person when I came to Antidote, in tears and suicidal on come downs. Antidote was a key organisation that assisted me in stopping drugs and alcohol.

“I was a mess. Antidote helped me get sober and find a new way of life”

For me, my path had to be total abstinence, and staying stopped. I had to acknowledge I had become powerless over the drugs and to be restored to some kind of sanity. Although total abstinence is not necessarily Antidote’s policy, I was totally supported in this by Antidote and the therapeutic services offered. I was given the opportunity of almost 12 months counselling and the drop-in service. Antidote gave me the chance to pull together the various strands of my life.
I am now three-and-a-half years’ clean and sober. I am a practising solicitor specialising in Child Protection. I sing with the London Philharmonic Choir, and I have a partner. I can go out frequently on the gay scene and not crave drugs, alcohol or oblivion. I can have sex sober. And, to my immense surprise I am Mr Eagle 2013. So, the above is the reason for the donation. It is just a very small something to give back.

David, Mr Eagle 2013



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