Sex and drugs have always gone hand in hand, none more so than methamphetamine (followed closely by cocaine, GHB, Ecstasy and other party drugs). For some, meth unleashes the uninhibited, even violent and animalistic, desires within. Sex-crazed and insatiable, users may act out their wildest fantasies and get into situations they never imagined they would, often without fear or awareness of the potential consequences.
All of this mind-bending, drug-fueled sex might be fine – until you find out it’s your spouse or partner. If they stop wanting to have sex with you, instead turning to Internet porn, prostitutes, “friend finder” apps or other sources, or bring home an STD, a little “recreational” meth use may not seem so harmless after all.
Partners of meth users often report finding bizarre clothing and toys hidden in their homes and feeling neglected or even abused by their partners. It can be devastating to the individuals and the relationship to uncover the unimaginable betrayals that have unfolded while one partner was high on meth.
Unbridled ‘Fun’ with Untold Consequences
Driven by an overpowering craving for sex, use of condoms is usually overlooked, increasing the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. In some gay communities throughout the U.S., HIV/AIDS is on the rise after decades of decline, in large part because of crystal meth. Other communities have reported surges in abortions and births by meth users who got pregnant while having unprotected sex on meth.
Ironically, one of the less-talked-about side effects of meth abuse is erectile dysfunction. Frustrated users may be plagued with all the sex drive in the world and an inability to do anything about it. Undeterred, they seek relief through Viagra and other drugs – a dangerous combination, especially when taken, as it often is, with alcohol. Others are aroused for hours but unable to achieve orgasm.
High-risk sex and its consequences aren’t the only concerns surrounding meth use. There’s also obsessive and even psychotic behavior, such as paranoia and aggression. Hallucinations and delusions, especially of insects crawling beneath the skin, can occur with heavy, chronic use, prompting users to pick at their skin.
Physical appearance can change dramatically, often with only a brief period of use. Reduced blood flow can make the skin look sallow and wrinkled and impair the body’s ability to heal. Heavy users look frail and sickly and may develop “meth mouth,” a mouth full of broken, rotting and discolored teeth.
One Addiction Turns into Two
Meth kills the inner voice that tells you when something is wrong or dangerous. It produces strong feelings of euphoria that last up to 12 hours by flooding the brain with dopamine – not the 200 units caused by sex or even the 350 units brought on by cocaine use, but a release of 1,250 units of dopamine. That’s about 12 times the release of normally pleasurable activities.
After the high wears off, depression sets in, prompting users to take more meth to feel good again. As users build up tolerance, their brain chemistry changes and they have difficulty feeling the same sense of euphoria. To amp up the high or fight off anxiety, paranoia and other undesirable side effects of meth, some people add GHB and other addictive stimulants to the mix. The ability to experience pleasure can take years to return, which sets people who fuse meth and sex up for a particularly difficult recovery.
Many meth addicts assume the sexual behavior will disappear once they get sober, but sexual experiences on meth, though perhaps blurry and confused, are not easily forgotten. They go to drug rehab, only to find that they crave not just drugs but also the sexually intense experiences they had while high. The all too common result is relapse – and not just relapse on drugs but relapse on high-risk sex as well.
Recovering from Sex Addiction and Meth Abuse
Stopping meth use doesn’t make a sex addiction disappear, and treating sex addiction doesn’t address a drug problem. Lasting recovery requires the individual to get treatment for both conditions at the same time. Looking back at their behavior through sober lenses, users may find that they have defied common sense and violated their own morals. The guilt and shame are so pervasive that they become an important part of the recovery process.
Another challenge is learning to enjoy sober sex. At first, sober sex may pale in comparison to the erections that last for hours, 20-minute orgasms and multi-day sex marathons. Meth addicts may wonder if sex will ever be good again. In treatment, they learn how to separate sex from using meth and how to enjoy the genuine intimacy and connection of sober sex.
Spouses and partners of people who strayed on meth are left with a lot of questions and few answers. For the sake of both partners and the relationship, ask your spouse/partner to answer the following 10 questions:
- Do the people you have sex with bring drugs to you?
- Do the people you have sex with expect you to get them high when you hook up for sex?
- Do you engage in sexual behaviors when high that you would not engage in when sober?
- When you’re high, what percentage of the time do you simultaneously look for, get involved in or have sex?
- When high, do you ever cross your own personal sexual boundaries and/or break previously made agreements to yourself or others about sex?
- When sober, do you ever look back on your behavior and feel shameful, fearful, uncomfortable or embarrassed about the sex you had when you were high?
- Do you enjoy having sex when you are sober or has it become less fun if you aren’t high?
- Are the places you go to have sex often the same places where you can find drugs?
- Are the people you have sex with often the same people with whom you get high?
- Have you ever had negative consequences in your life related to the combination of stimulant drugs and sex?
If your partner answers in the affirmative, they need specialized treatment that addresses both drug use and the sexual behavior tied to it, not just drug rehab. You, the partner of a meth user, need support and counseling of your own to ensure that you’re getting your own needs met. And finally, the relationship needs repair if there is any hope of reconciliation or closure. All of these pieces come together in dual diagnosis treatment, bringing hope to couples who have been torn apart by meth and other stimulant drugs.