Home Lifestyle I had never heard of chemsex until my brother died from drugs

I had never heard of chemsex until my brother died from drugs

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It was confirmed that he had a puncture wound in his foot from injecting chems and drugs in his system (Picture: Chloe Marshall)

In December 2022, my older brother Ben died, aged just 27.  

Ben was cheeky, witty, and intrigued by everything and anything. He always wanted to make things better, and his work for the NHS trust in Manchester showed how passionate he was about helping others. 

But since his death, I’ve discovered there was another side to Ben.  

It has opened my eyes to a nightmare that a lot of families may not realise that their loved-ones could also be struggling with – the nightmare of chemsex.  

It is the use of drugs to enable an enhanced sexual experience and it’s particularly prevalent within the LGBTQ+ community. Chemsex became part of Ben’s life, and his death.  

These drugs can help you to lose your sexual inhibitions, make you feel invincible but they are highly addictive and can completely destroy you

Growing up, we were a close family. My older brothers – Ben and Todd – and I always got on really well.  

In my early 20s, I went to Manchester, where Ben was working, to live with him.  

Ben’s laptop contained details of the world he’d been sucked into (Picture: Chloe Marshall)

Ben would cook for me, we went to the gym together – we made some good memories. He always believed in me, pushing me to think bigger, motivating me to pursue my dreams. 

Eventually, I got my own place – Ben helped me to build a life for myself. 

Yet, in the months before his death, I had known that things weren’t going well for Ben. 

In fact, the last time I spoke to him, in summer 2022, he was telling me about sex parties that he’d been going to and the drugs that everyone was taking. 

I was shocked and gave him a bit of a lecture – I told him not to risk losing his job, that he needed to be more sensible. 

Sadly, Ben didn’t take it well, and cut off contact with me. 

That call was the last time I spoke to my brother. Knowing what I know now, I’d have handled it totally differently. I’ll think about that for the rest of my life.  

Because, on 22 December last year, his housemate came home and couldn’t get in the door. 

When they eventually managed to gain access, they found Ben upstairs and called the emergency services. The police arrived and confirmed his death. 

They then went to my parents’ house to let them know. 

My parents called me soon after. I was in shock. I couldn’t process what they were telling me – it was a pain I’ve never felt before and wouldn’t wish on anybody. 

All they could relay at that point was that Ben had died. We didn’t know if it was a health condition, suicide, or what. 

The issues surrounding chemsex are much bigger and more complex than I ever imagined (Picture: Chloe Marshall)

It wasn’t until the autopsy had been completed that it was confirmed that he had a puncture wound in his foot from injecting chems drugs in his system. 

The next few weeks were surreal. We were staggering through each day. 

We weren’t able to hold his funeral until 31 January and when it did finally arrive, I was in bits. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to get through it. Standing there, my brother’s coffin in front of me, felt like an out-of-body experience. 

It wasn’t until that May – five months after Ben’s death – that we got the coroner’s report. He had died of a cardiac arrest, with a several drugs in his body – cocaine, ketamine, GHB, and crystal meth.  

My heart breaks thinking about what my brother was going through. He had so much potential

Yet, with no further explanation, it felt like the coroner’s report raised more questions than it answered. At the time, I had no idea why Ben had taken these drugs. 

It wasn’t until August that I was given his personal items back from the police, including his phone and laptop.  

As well as the photos and happy memories that I’d been searching for, Ben’s laptop contained details of the world he’d been sucked into. That helped me to piece together what had happened to my brother, including the fact that he’d stopped working in the summer before his death.

On Ben’s phone, I saw his messages on Grindr – an LGBTQ+ dating app. There were lots of references to drugs.

I’ll think about that for the rest of my life (Picture: Chloe Marshall)

Then I stumbled on something remarkable on his laptop – unpublished blog posts that he’d written on how to support someone struggling with chemsex.

It was clear to me that he could see that he wasn’t coping; he was describing the help that he needed, he just hadn’t been able to ask for it. 

The blog was titled Still Sleepless. I’ve since learned that chems can keep you awake for days on end, fuelling a compulsive search for some form of intimacy through hook-ups, sex parties, or porn. 

I started researching, trying to find out anything I could about why gay men are using chems and what could have been done to try and help my brother. 

The only specialist organisation that I was able to find in the UK is Controlling Chemsex, a charity that provides free online support to people who are struggling with their use of chems.  

Speaking to them, I learnt a lot. The issues surrounding chemsex are much bigger and more complex than I ever imagined. 

Since then, I want to continue the work that Ben had started to explore with his blog posts – educating families about chemsex and helping them support a loved-one who might be having issues with these drugs.

He had so much potential (Picture, Chloe Marshall)

Writing this article is a first step. It’s painful for me to talk about losing Ben, it’s painful for me to share my family’s grief, but I hope that it will raise awareness and educate people.

It’s what Ben would want me to do. 

My heart breaks thinking about what my brother was going through. He had so much potential – so much to look forward to.  

But I know there are so many other Bens out there, struggling with this, with no-one to talk to. 

And I’m determined to help them all.

If you or a loved one are having issues with the use of chems or you want to find out more, contact ControllingChemsex.com for free advice and information.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

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