Apps / Drugs / Sex & Hooking Up

Poppers – the Benefits, Legality, and Dangers

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A couple weeks ago I posted a story on my Instagram, a bit shocked after reading an article on Grindr’s magazine about the use of poppers.  It was an opinion piece in response to a reader question on whether or not he should try poppers during sex. The article basically said “try them, you might like them,” which I found a bit surprising.  There was really no discussion of the potential dangers or legal issues surrounding poppers, and with such a big and also young audience, I was a bit disappointed in that article’s approach to poppers.  So, here is my complete take on poppers using multiple legal, health, and other resources both for and against their use.

First of all, what are poppers?  I remember when I was first figuring out my sexuality and hearing about them on the apps with no clue of what they were, whether or not they were legal, or if they were some sort of hard drug.  They also often come up in the context of offers to “PnP” (party and play, or chem sex) during which hard drugs such as meth are used during sex.  Well, poppers are definitely not meth.  But I was terrified and avoided anyone who brought them up out of the fear that it was a hard drug for a long time.

Poppers are a chemical substance made of amyl nitrite or butyl nitrite.  They are usually in the form of a liquid in a small bottle, and users inhale the liquid or dip something (like a cigarette) into the liquid and then inhale that.  They are called poppers because they originally came in tiny glass pieces in a bottle that would “pop” when you crushed them in your fingers.  They became popular, especially in gay culture, from the 1970’s through the 1990’s and also were popular in the disco and rave cultures around those times.

Benefits

When poppers are inhaled, they lead to vasodilation in your blood vessels which causes your blood pressure to lower.  This creates an instant euphoric effect that can last for a few minutes, loosening your inhibitions and increasing sexual pleasure.  Many people inhale them prior to anal sex because they feel that it is easier and more pleasant to bottom with their use.  Many people also report that they enhance their orgasms or make their erections stronger.

Legality

Doesn’t sound like a bad deal, right?  Well, that’s where the Grindr article stopped. But there’s a lot more you need to know about poppers before giving them a try.  First, the legal status of poppers is different depending on what country you are in.  In the United States, they were originally available as a prescription drug in the 1960’s to treat heart conditions.  After they became popular for recreational uses in the 70’s, they were banned for inhalant use in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.

They remain illegal today in the U.S. for inhalant uses, however, they can be sold for commercial purposes.  That’s why you may see them for sale in sex stores or online under alternative uses like “dvd cleaners” or “polish removers” or “air fresheners.”  Think of it like spray paint, they are technically legal to buy and if you sniff them things will happen to you, but that’s not always the best idea.  In the U.K., similarly, they have been illegal to market for human use since 1968.  In Canada, my sources note that they are completely banned for human and commercial purposes.  Of course they are easily available online in all cases.

Health Dangers

So why are these places outlawing poppers?  Well, there are some dangers associated with them and these countries have decided that the dangers make them unsafe to market to the public for unrestricted sexual use.

Immediate side effects of poppers include: dizziness, headaches, buzzing in the ears, increased pressure inside the eyes,  and light sensitivity.

If you use high doses of poppers, you may deal with: extreme dizziness, fainting, loss of consciousness, and depressed breathing.

If you use poppers frequently, you may deal with: sneezing, a runny nose, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, a yellowish crust around the nose and lips, damage to the nasal septum, facial swelling and redness, distorted perception, temporary erectile problems, and a serious form of anemia.

But, that’s not all friends…here are the most intense potential side effects:

If you have heart problems, anemia, or glaucoma (an eye disease), you should not use poppers period.  Poppers can potentially kill you due to injury of the red blood cells and reduced oxygen supply to your vital organs. Use of poppers can lead to unconsciousness and death if you end up choking on your vomit while unconscious.  Poppers can burn your skin on contact and can kill you if they are ever swallowed.  There have been reports of death, otherwise known as “sudden sniffing death syndrome” the first time people have tried poppers due to development of an abnormal heart rhythm when the drug is introduced to your system.  There have also been a number of cases of temporary or permanent vision loss after the use of poppers.  If your vision is ever weird after the use of poppers, do not continue using.

Mixing poppers with Viagra, blood pressure medication, and alcohol are NOT recommended and increase the potential for any of these side effects and death.

Summary

So – there it is.  The benefits, legality, and potential dangers of poppers.  My take on all drugs is that they are probably not smart to use but if you are willing to take the risk after hearing about all of the potential side effects, including death, then that is your choice to make.  As long as you are not putting others’ life in danger, your life is your own. Many people use poppers regularly and are fine.  Others have had mild side effects, some people have died.  That’s just the truth of it.  They are easy to get, even though they are illegal for human consumption in most major countries.  They are not a “drug” to most people in the way that cocaine, heroin, or meth are, but there are definitely consequences to their use as with any substance.

So, unlike Grindr, my advice is not “try them, you might like them.”  My personal advice is, I really don’t think its the best for your health to inhale DVD cleaner and maybe just have a cocktail and find a man you’re very attracted to if you want euphoric and less stressful or painful sex.

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