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“Poppers”, the street name for amyl nitrate, is a prescription medication for people suffering from angina. For those unfamiliar with the condition, it’s associated with severe chest pains that can also spread to the shoulders, arms and neck because of an inadequate flow of blood to the heart. The inhalant relaxes blood vessels and increases the amount of blood and oxygen to the heart while easing the body’s cardiac workload.
Personal use of this class of chemicals, known as alkyl nitrates, without a prescription, has been illegal since the 1980’s. Alkyl nitrates are, however, legal for commercial purposes, such as nail polish remover, video-head cleaners and room deodorizers.
One popular method of consumption for recreational users is sticking an unlit cigarette into the bottle of liquid, pulling it out and inhaling the fumes through the tobacco. This is potentially very dangerous because amyl nitrate and isopropyl nitrites are extremely flammable.
While an unlit cigarette won’t make the chemicals spontaneously combust, there have been instances in which people haven’t realized their cigarette was lit before they doused it with the liquid. “But you’d have to be pretty stupid to do that, wouldn’t you?” writes Adam Lusher, a contributor to the UK outlet The Independent. “Yes. Or drunk. And the government hasn’t – yet – banned cigarettes and alcohol.”
Inhaling is not a risk-free pastime, but many recreational users claim that along with the very brief “head rush” that comes with it, the drug improves sex.
In addition to the vascular rush of blood, the nitrates loosen involuntary muscle tissue, which can make anal, vaginal and female-to-male oral sex less difficult or uncomfortable. This is one of the reasons why, argue some recreational users, “poppers” rose to popularity as a sex-drug in the gay community first.
According to the Mayo Clinic, inhaling these substances can lead to some negative side effects, including some of the following:
- Fast pulse
- Flushing of the face and neck
- Nausea or vomiting
Regular or heavy use, it should be mentioned, might lead to;
- scaly, yellow skin lesions around the nose, lips and mouth
- slurred speech
- lack of coordination
- unsteady gait
Risks & Warnings
The clinic also notes that this drug should never be consumed by anyone using sildenafil and tadalafil, more commonly known by the brand names Viagra and Cialis because of how both drugs interact with blood pressure and the cardiovascular system. Though a fatal overdose is rare, it is possible, especially for people with blood pressure conditions.
The commercial use stipulation in the law is something of a loophole because they are easily purchased at head shops, sex shops and most especially online. Labeled with “do not drink or inhale” warning, these small bottles, which are now mostly isopropyl nitrites instead of amyl nitrate, are sold under names like;
- “Jungle Juice”
- “Clock Cleaner”
Amyl nitrate and isopropyl nitrites aren’t considered physically addictive, but there is anecdotal evidence that suggests some users feel dependent on “poppers” in order to perform during sex.
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