Alkyl nitrites are short-lasting drugs which cause a headrush and muscle relaxation. They appear as liquids that produce a vapour that can be inhaled. Alkyl nitrites are also known as poppers. The first, amyl nitrite, was made in 1844 and was used to help relieve angina (chest pains). Widespread recreational use of amyl nitrite is thought to have started in the 1960s. After consequent restrictions on its production and use, various other related alkyl nitrites appeared. Poppers are usually found in the form of a liquid chemical sold in a small bottle. It is a depressant. They dilate the blood vessels and allow more blood to get to the heart. Amyl nitrite, in common with other alkyl nitrites, is a potent vasodilator, meaning that it dilates the blood vessels of the individual, allowing more blood to pass through and so lowering blood pressure. Alkyl nitrite functions as a source of nitric oxide, which signals relaxation of the involuntary muscles. In some countries, to evade anti-drug laws, poppers are labelled and/or packaged as room deodorizers, leather polish or tape head cleaner.
*Though often referred to as ‘Amyl Nitrate’, Nitrate is a diesel fuel additive, and the two are completely different and should not be confused.
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Fatal if consumed orally – never drink – will result in coma/death.
Poppers are for inhalation only.
The most common method of use is to hold an open bottle to the nostril and sniff the vapour in.
DURATION OF EFFECTS
Total duration: 1-5 minutes
Onset: 0-30 seconds
Peak: 30 seconds – 2 minutes
Coming Down: 1-3 minutes
After effects/hangover: 1-5 minutes
Roadside Police: Roadside saliva tests do not look for poppers. It is so rapidly metabolised that it is not able to be tested for. It is illegal to drive under the influence of any illicit drugs, including poppers and any driver may be subject to a roadside behavioural impairment test. Wait at least 24 hours before driving.
Drug Checking: Lab-quality testing has been trialled in Australia and is not available as a health service yet. Some poppers have been rescheduled to schedule 3 which will allow for a regulated supply to be purchased OTC at pharmacies.
Effects vary from person to person. Check out our table below that has listed the potential physical, psychological and emotional effects.
Taking drugs is never without risk. In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any drug. ‘Dose’ depends on the form a drug is in (liquid, powder, pill, crystal) and how you have it (snort, eat, inject).
- Use in a comfortable environment with people you trust.
- Start with a very small amount to gauge strength and assess your sensitivity.
- Dose is determined by the depth and length of the inhalation.
- It is a good idea to sit down when using and go easy until you get used to the effects
- Consider carefully before taking more as it is easy to take too much.
- Warm sensation
- Relaxation of smooth muscles
- Increased heart rate
- Increased libido
- Skin sensitivity
- Increased body temperature
- Impaired/decreased coordination & muscle control
- Blurred vision
- Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
- Syncope (fainting)
- Increased sensual awareness
- Visual distortions
- Use in a safe environment with friends and people you trust – somewhere you feel comfortable.
- Inhale through your nose by holding the open bottle up to one nostril.
- If it comes into contact with skin, wash the area straight away with water to avoid a chemical burn. Poppers are corrosive.
- The liquid is highly flammable, so avoid smoking or open flames when using poppers.
- Poppers are light-sensitive and are best kept in a cool, dark, dry place, store away from a flame in a tinted bottle.
- Poppers can be corrosive to skin
- Not to be consumed orally, rectally, or in any other manner than inhaling the fumes/vapour.
LONG TERM EFFECTS
Effects of long term use of these substances can result in a range of clinical conditions varying from mild allergic reactions to life threatening methemoglobinemia (a blood disorder which can lead to inadequate oxygen supply to body tissue).
Other long term effects of Alkyl Nitrates include:
- Skin lesions
- Dermatological problems particularly around the nose, mouth, lips and face
- Increased intraocular (eye) pressure (risky for people with underlying glaucoma)
It is not recommended to use poppers if you have or are at risk of:
• High/low blood pressure • An illness requiring prescribed vasodilators • Heart issues • Glaucoma • Anaemia • Pregnancy
Polydrug use has many possible outcomes. What could be fun for one person could be dangerous for another. We do not endorse any of these combinations and recommend you proceed with caution.
- Other vasodilators – Common vasodilators include Viagra (sildenafil), Levitra (vardenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil). Can cause cardiac arrest.
- Meth/amphetamines – Will increase the strain on the heart and put the body under excess stress.
Low risk effects
Check out the TripSit drug combinations chart here for info on other combinations.
Call 000 if experiencing adverse effects, feel unwell or concerned in any way
This educational resource has been developed collaboratively by healthcare workers and people who use drugs for their peers and the wider community. The role of Hi-Ground is to provide practical, evidence-based, unbiased information to assist you to make educated choices and to promote harm reduction, community care, and wellbeing.
In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any substance. Taking drugs from an unregulated market carries its own risk, and you can educate yourself and practice harm reduction to reduce this risk.
Knowledge is power.
This resource is produced by DanceWize & Hi-Ground