What Are Poppers? - Side Effects & Risks | Rehab Guide
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What Are Poppers?

Poppers Drug


  • Amyl Nitrite
  • Butyl Nitrite
  • Isobutyl Nitrite
  • Rush
  • Stud
  • Locker Room
  • Liquid Gold Drug
  • TNT

Poppers is a popular slang name for a range of chemically psychoactive drugs termed alkyl nitrites, particularly the inhalant drug amyl nitrite.

Poppers are usually sold in small bottles in liquids that produce a vapour that can be inhaled.

How do people take poppers?

Poppers are usually inhaled straight from the bottle by capping the hand around the bottle or from an absorbent material such as a cloth or a sleeve. One of the most common chemicals in the poppers group is Amyl Nitrite and was initially used to treat angina (a heart condition).

Are Poppers Legal?

As of 2002, the newest popper was cyclohexyl nitrite, commonly sold in drug paraphernalia or “head” shops and adult bookstores as a head cleaner for VCRs. Cyclohexyl is chemically similar to amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite and produces the same effect when inhaled.

It may surprise you to know that the use of Poppers is not covered under the ‘Governments’ legal high‘ Psychoactive Substances Act.  They have been used recreationally since the 1970s, and they’re labelled for other uses because it is illegal to advertise them for human consumption.   They are commonly sold in little brown bottles and are highly flammable. They have a very distinctive and strong solvent smell.

Are poppers dangerous? 

Health risks 

The risks of using are relatively low for healthy people compared to other volatile substances and other drugs. 

However, statistics show that 18 drug-related deaths mentioned Amyl Nitrite on a death certificate death in England and Wales between 2001 to 2016.

Poppers reduce blood pressure and increase heart rate, and they are riskier for people with heart conditions, abnormal blood pressure, anaemia or glaucoma and for those who are pregnant. 

What do poppers do?

Image Drugwise

These chemicals are called potent vasodilators; in other words, the popper effect expands the blood vessels, which directly impacts the blood pressure. When sniffing poppers, you will experience a head rush which comes on almost immediately after sniffing them and can last a couple of minutes. This rush or high is caused by the body’s blood vessels dilating (opening) and blood rushing to the brain.

Poppers are often used during sex as they are believed to enhance orgasm and have been reported to increase the size of a man’s erection for a few minutes after sniffing the drug. But for some men, it’s the opposite, and they have trouble getting an erection after sniffing them.

Are poppers bad for you?

Once the initial rush is over, you will experience headaches that can last a few days if used heavily. Other reported side effects include hot flushes, rashes, particularly around the nose and lips, dizziness, nausea, and damage to the cheeks and face due to chemical burns.  These side effects will disappear after using the drug stops, although recovery may take a few days after heavy use. Be warned if you spill poppers on your skin or try to drink them; they will burn you severely.

Ongoing amyl nitrate abuse can also cause long-term harm, including brain damage, heart disease, liver damage, and kidney failure. Permanent hearing loss; damage to bone marrow, impacting blood and immune system health; permanently slurred speech; and chronic physical tremors.

A new study published online indicates that the chemical composition of the legal high ‘poppers’ is linked to retinal damage at the back of the eye. From a British Journal of Ophthalmology report, isopropyl nitrite is linked with a form of eye-damage known as ‘Poppers Maculopathy. The findings prompt the researchers to call for a reassessment of the harms associated with these recreational drugs.

It’s useful to know that if you have low blood pressure, heart trouble or have had a stroke, do not use poppers – they will make your condition severely worse and could kill you.

Poppers may increase the chance of tearing during sex, making it easier for HIV or Hep C to enter the bloodstream. 

All nitrites are possible carcinogens, and isobutyl nitrite is a known carcinogen. Long-term, frequent use may be associated with an increased risk of certain kinds of cancer.

Is it dangerous to mix poppers with other drugs?

Yes, any time you mix drugs, you take on new risks. Things that affect your risk include the type of drug, the strength and how much you take. Mixing drugs with alcohol will cause tremendous stress to the body’s vital organs. Mixing poppers with alcohol can increase the risk of reducing the oxygen supply to vital organs, which can cause unconsciousness and death.

Mixing poppers with Viagra or other erectile dysfunction medication is dangerous as they all affect blood pressure.

Poppers are commonly used in conjunction with other illicit drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamines, and hallucinogens, to enhance the high. These and other so-called club drugs can lead to psychiatric problems and physiological conditions such as overheating, dehydration, and heart strain.

Can you get addicted?

There’s no evidence to suggest that poppers are physically or psychologically addictive.

Poppers are extremely dangerous and can lead to sudden death at any time, so it is vital to get medical help detoxing from these drugs.

There are no withdrawal symptoms for poppers commonly associated with other inhalants. Since amyl nitrite is not addictive, no suggested treatment or rehabilitation regimen is specific to the drug. However, since poppers are often used in combination with other drugs, abusers are likely to benefit from drug dependency treatment programs, including counselling.

If you think you or your friend has a problem or is abusing poppers, contact Rehab Guide today to inquire about help and advice on 02072052845.








Author 'John


Trained in addictionology in the Johnson Model, and specializing in substance abuse for individual and couple counselling. John's personal experience has given him a wealth of insights, which he integrates into practice. His extensive training has allowed him to gain expertise in individual and group counselling, concurrent disorders, case management, executing treatment plans and relapse prevention. He started this free helpline as a result of a life change and to help others get sober and live a life free from drugs and alcohol. John covers a variety of topics relating to addiction and recovery in his articles.


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