What are poppers?

  • “Poppers” is a slang term for a class of chemicals called “alkyl nitrites” or simply “nitrites.”
  • Nitrites are used medically for the treatment of angina and other heart conditions, as they dilate blood vessels and allow blood to flow more easily to the heart.
  • Recreationally, they are sold in little bottles as “video head cleaners,” “polish removers” or “room deodorizers.” Inside the bottle they are liquid, but because they have a very low vapor point, as soon as the bottle is opened or “popped” they turn into a gas.
  • The vapors are inhaled from the open bottle immediately.

What are the effects?

  • The effects from inhaling nitrites are felt within a few seconds and last for one to two minutes.
  • Nitrites relax smooth muscles tissue around blood vessels, causing the blood vessels to dilate. This increases heart rate and causes more oxygen-rich blood to reach the brain, producing a “rush” sensation.
  • Many users report dizziness or feelings that the room is spinning.
  • Headaches are common due to the expansion of blood vessels in the brain.
  • Because poppers relax muscles in the anus and vagina, they are sometimes used during sex to facilitate penetration.

Be careful!

  • Since poppers are not regulated, the exact contents of these products are not known, and they are not safety tested.
  • Do not swallow the liquid inside the bottle as this can be fatal. If it happens accidentally, call 911 or Poison Control.
  • Contact with the skin can cause irritation and rashes.
  • Extensive use can damage the nose or lungs.
  • Poppers are highly flammable. Keep away from cigarettes, candles, and lighters.
  • Studies show that poppers reduce the functioning of the immune system for several days after use.
  • Because poppers cause blood vessels to open, it is easier to get an infection, including sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
  • Poppers pose extra risks for people who have suppressed immune systems, heart problems, low or high blood pressure, a history of cerebral hemorrhaging, anemia, or are pregnant.
  • Combining poppers with stimulants like speed and cocaine increases risks. Combining poppers and Viagra is dangerous because both cause blood pressure to drop.
  • Poppers can affect your judgment. If you are planning on being intimate, put on a condom before you use them.
  • To prevent spilling and evaporation, pour a small amount in a separate bottle filled with cotton and store tightly sealed in a refrigerator or freezer.
  • Possession of amyl nitrite without a doctor’s prescription is illegal. Federal law bans the manufacture and distribution of butyl nitrite and related substances, although these provisions have not often been enforced.
  • Be self aware! If you choose to use poppers, having an intention is the best way to maximize the benefits and reduce risks.
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