A new study reveals gay and bi men who use PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) report lower levels of sexual addiction (“sexual compulsivity”) and notably lower use of so-called ‘party drugs.’
Researchers at the largest STI clinic in Amsterdam tracked PrEP users over a three year period to assess how longtime use might impact mental health and addiction issues.
Those who took part in the study answered questions regarding levels of depression and/or anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and the levels (if any) they felt unable to control their sexual behavior.
While levels of alcohol use and depression remained statistically the same, PrEP users reported a significant decline (from 38 percent at baseline to 31 percent at last visit) in the use of two specific drugs: ecstasy (MDMA) and nitrates (poppers).
Sexual compulsivity also showed a notable decrease – from 23 percent to 10 percent at last visit.
The term refers to sexual fantasies or behaviors that cause folks to act out in ways that can be damaging to multiple aspects of life like work, friendships, and personal health.
The researchers remarked that “the simultaneous decrease in drug use disorder and sexual compulsivity was unexpected.”
Gus Cairns of AIDSMAP writes: “They hypothesise that PrEP relieved its users of the anxiety of catching HIV and that, in turn, this made them feel more in charge of their sexual behaviour (so less compulsive) and less in need of drugs to counteract the inhibiting effect of anxiety.”
The researchers take care not to say that PrEP was specifically the cause of improvements in addiction and mental health. Rather, they note that just being a part of the study, and therefore paying attention to these indicators, probably impacted the participants’ outlook.