Last updated August 2011/ Due for review December 2013
Poppers are a nitrite-based drug. Amyl nitrite is used medically to ease thechest pain caused by The drug gets its name from the small glass
capsules containing amyl nitrite for the treatment of angina which used tobe 'popped' under the nose and inhaled. Amyl and butyl nitrite started to be
As with any drug it may be wise to consider how using poppers affects your
used recreationally, and have been popular with gay men for many years.
wider health and lifestyle, particularly if you are using poppers with otheror .
In the UK poppers are sold in small brown bottles, which contain a liquid
you manage this. There is also some evidence that HIV-negative men who
form of butyl nitrite. It is very rare for amyl nitrite to be used as poppers, as
use poppers and have unprotected sex have an increased risk of infection
its sale is illegal without prescription under the Medicines Act. The legal
status of butyl nitrite has been the subject of court cases in recent years.
The sale of butyl nitrite poppers is legal, largely because they are sold as
This factsheet has been written with UK law in mind. Readers in other
'aromas' or 'room odourisers' rather than as a drug to be inhaled. The
countries should be aware that the legal status of poppers may differ from
possession of poppers, in either amyl or butyl nitrite form, is legal.
Effects of poppersWhen inhaled, poppers cause blood vessels to dilate, allowing more bloodto reach the . They also cause blood to rush to the brain, speed upheartbeat and relax muscles, providing an intense high lasting a fewminutes at most. The drug is widely used to intensify pleasure whilstdancing and having sex. Sniffing poppers relaxes the anal sphinctermuscles allowing anal sex to take place more easily. As poppers dilate bloodvessels, many men find that they lose their erection when sniffing them.
General health concernsAfter-effects of sniffing poppers may include headache, skin rashes,weakness, sinus pains and burns if the liquid comes into contact with theskin. Sniffing poppers can also cause . People withheart or lung problems are advised to avoid poppers as they can causebreathing problems. Sniffing of poppers can cause the lips and skin to takeon a blue tinge. In some cases vomiting, shock, and unconsciousness mayfollow. A very few deaths have been reported due to use of poppers.
Poppers and HIVThe long-term effects of poppers has been a matter of considerablecontroversy, particularly as it was argued that their use caused AIDS andHIV-negative and HIV-positive gay men found that only those with HIVhave cancer-causing effects. These studies have been criticised because ofthe relatively large amounts of nitrites given to animals. Any long-termimmune damage or cancer-causing effect in humans remains to be proven.
Poppers and interactions with medicinesThere are no documented between drugs used to treat HIV andpoppers.
However, sniffing poppers after taking anti-impotence drugs, such as
or can result in a potentially dangerous drop in blood pressure.
The potential dangers from sniffing poppers after taking Viagra
areincreased if you are also taking a protease inhibitor as part of your HIVtreatment. Protease inhibitors cause the amount of Viagra
in theblood to increase, and for this reason it is recommended that peopleprescribed protease inhibitors take only half the normal dose of Viagra
and you are recommended not to use poppers at the same time.
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