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  • What Are Poppers? | Side Effects & Dangers Of Inhaling Alkyl Nitrates

    What Are Poppers? | Side Effects & Dangers Of Inhaling Alkyl Nitrates

    Poppers are products that contain amyl nitrite, a prescription medication used to relieve chest pain. Poppers are a liquid chemical (alkyl nitrites) known as a recreational drug primarily used for the enjoyment of sexual enhancement.

    Although poppers may increase your sexual pleasure, they can also increase your risk of developing serious health issues. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings that the use of poppers can cause life-threatening problems.

    Types Of Poppers

    Poppers can be purchased in a variety of ways including online or at an adult sex shop. They usually come in small bottles similar to energy drinks and go by several names such as liquid gold or butyl nitrite. However, poppers aren’t marketed as inhalants.

    In many stores, poppers can be marketed as:

    • leather cleaners
    • cosmetics
    • liquid incense
    • solvents
    • room deodorizers
    • nail polish remover
    • air fresheners
    • energy shots including brand names such as Jungle Juice, Locker Room, Super Rush, or Iron Horse

    Poppers contain amyl nitrite which has a long history of helping to treat people with heart conditions such as angina. Today, amyl nitrite is used to treat cyanide poisoning.

    Side Effects Of Poppers

    Not many people realize that inhaling poppers is a form of drug use. When inhaled, poppers can make a person experience:

    • a head rush
    • lightheadedness
    • a warm sensation across their body
    • low blood pressure
    • an increased sexual sensation

    Even some of the side effects of poppers can be extremely dangerous. Someone who experiences dizziness may faint and hurt themselves. Those who have a head rush can experience a severe headache. 

    The Dangers Of Poppers

    Poppers are vasodilators. This means that, when inhaled, they dilate your blood vessels. This causes people to experience low blood pressure. 

    Since poppers cause issues with blood pressure, they should not be combined with other medications that interfere with blood pressure such as sildenafil (Viagra) or other erectile dysfunction medications.

    Many items that can be considered poppers are highly flammable due to the ingredients. This can result in serious emergencies or even chemical burns on your face and nose.

    Swallowing and inhaling poppers routinely can lead to life-threatening conditions and problems such as:

    • brain damage
    • heart problems
    • ​heart disease
    • fluctuating heart rate
    • ​glaucoma
    • methemoglobinemia
    • coma
    • death

    Poppers & Sex

    Because poppers contain amyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite, another side effect is increased blood flow to the smooth muscles of the body. This increased blood flow causes certain smooth muscles of the body to relax.

    The anal sphincter and vagina are considered smooth muscles of the body. This is why many inhale poppers during sex. Those who enjoy anal sex may use poppers as a way to relax the muscles and make sex easier.

    Although primarily seen with gay men, poppers can be used by straight people as well. 

    Recreational use of poppers can eventually pose problems to your health and lead to a number of different heart conditions. This is why poppers can be a concern for public health and those who inhale the substance should understand the serious side effects and dangers.

    If you or a loved one have issues with substance use, learn about our healthcare options by contacting us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2021 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Sources

    Food & Drug Administration - FDA Advises Consumers Not to Purchase or Use Nitrate Poppers
    Food & Drug Administration - Nitrite Poppers
    National Library of Medicine: PubMed - Poppers, A New Recreational Drug Craze
    National Library of Medicine: PubMed - The Poppers-HIV Connection
    National Library of Medicine: PubMed - Use of Nitrate Inhalants (Poppers) Among American Youth

    Medically Reviewed by
    Kimberly Langdon M.D.
    on August 10, 2022
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