Poppers are the common term for the volatile liquid, amyl nitrite. There are other varieties (butyl and isobutyl nitrites) and collectively they are called alkyl nitrites.
The liquid is sniffed or inhaled for the effects and has a petro-chemical aroma. It is highly flammable. It gives a rapid rush, making the heart race. Its effects pass in a few moments.
Nitrites were formally used to treat angina (heart pain) where a glass capsule was ‘popped’ for inhalation. They are legal drugs sold as ‘room odourisers’. They tend to be used by teenagers who are experimenting with new substances because they are cheap and short-lasting with no obvious visible effects like alcohol and cannabis. They are also used by gay man to enhance sexual stimulation.
They cost between £2-4 for a small bottle (10ml).
The brand names include: rush, liquid gold, TNT, ram, buzz.
Nitrites all get the heart racing. They give a very short-lived sense of euphoria and last only about 2-3 minutes so are often taken repeatedly particularly if taken for sexual arousal. Nausea and light-headedness are fairly common. People taking it often have a rush of blood to their face and neck.
There is a small risk of becoming dependent. If you are just an occasional user then you should suffer few of the seriously bad effects of the drug. But it is always risky for the heart to take any nitrite particularly repeatedly.
Prolonged use is rare but would tend to impact on your mental capacity. Taking it when drunk will lead to dizziness and loss of co-ordination. Nitrites are often taken in combination with other drugs which can have unpredictable effects. Some suggest nitrites can prolong and enhance the effects of the other drugs.
A report suggested regular use can cause eye damage. Nitrites make the heart rate much faster so many of the health issues relate to the heart such as elevated blood pressure, risk of heart attack or stroke. If you are dancing, drinking alcohol and using repeatedly then you risk passing out and injuring yourself when collapsing.
The liquid is toxic and will burn your skin with any contact. It is extremely dangerous if any is swallowed; medical treatment should be sought immediately.
There is no hangover with poppers and no big ‘come down’ like you might get with stimulants. Mild headaches are fairly common. The level of use in UK has remained low over several years; it is not considered a very problematic drug.
Avoid regular use. Keep away from any flames, lit cigarettes etc. Don’t take nitrites if you have any kind of heart issue (high blood pressure, poor circulation irregular heartbeat) or if you are feeling unwell. Avoid taking repeat doses. Don’t engage in risking behaviour which can lead to pregnancy, STDs or sexual injury. Use a condom. Avoid regular use.
Poppers are legal to possess and can be bought in head shop and sex shops too. They are technically illegal to supply under the Medicines Act – there have been attempts to prosecute suppliers but very few convictions. They fall outside the new law on legal highs – the Psychoactive Substances Act – so are still legal to possess and sell.
How do you take poppers?
Poppers are inhaled for a short high most often they are taken in the gay community for sexual enhancement. When inhaled they can cause individuals to lose their balance and make them disorientated. Some young people have mistakenly swallowed the highly toxic poisonous liquid – it is also highly flammable.
Are they dangerous when combined with other substances?
Poppers can be dangerous when used in combination with other sexual aids like Viagra, as they both drugs increase heart rate and blood flow and reduce blood pressure.
Do assorted brands have varied effects?
The best known brands of poppers are Liquid Gold and Rush that are made up of a formula containing a range of chemicals: cyclohexyl nitrite, isopentyl nitrite or isoamyl nitrite. But the effects are broadly the same, a short sudden rush.