A study of 800 gay and bisexual men aged 18-35 men who use poppers (aka Alkyl or Amyl Nitrates) “found little evidence of typical dependency characteristics, including health, social, legal and financial problems, and no correlation between popper use and mental health or psychological stress,” researchers at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia reported.
The study’s results came in the wake of a decision by the Australian government not to outlaw alkyl nitrates but to classify them as a Schedule 3 drug available over the counter in pharmacies.
Medicalxpress.com added: ‘Currently, poppers are available on prescription from pharmacies, but they are more commonly bought illicitly, in sex-on-premises venues and LGBT bars. A vial containing 25-30mL of the clear, strong-smelling fluid, possibly labelled as “VHS tape cleaner”, “leather cleaner” or “room deodoriser”, sells for up to $50, despite costing a couple of cents to manufacture.’
Said lead researcher Dr. Daniel Demant of the study and the government classification: “What we see with this research is that poppers are a very commonly used drug in the LGBT community, both recently and over their lifetime. Most of the users are already oppressed or marginalised based on their social identity as gay or bisexual men. This creates a question as to whether there would have been a discriminatory element in banning a substance with such a low risk profile. Banning a substance that is used by so many people would create a new class of criminals, basically overnight.”
That’s not to say poppers are without their health risks. Vice spoke with Dr Aifric Boylan, Australian GP and CEO of online doctor service Qoctor. Poppers create “a sense of euphoria, increased sex drive, reduced inhibitions, increased skin sensitivity, as well as relaxation of the walls of the anus,” according to Boylan.
Added Boylan: “It is possible to develop an allergic reaction over time. Another rare but serious complication is methaemoglobinaemia, which means the blood becomes unable to carry oxygen. This can be life threatening, and it happens when a person swallows rather than inhales poppers.”
Boylan continued: “If a person is susceptible to glaucoma—a condition involving raised pressure in the eyes—amyl can make it worse. And if a person has heart or circulation problems, the unpredictable changes in blood pressure can cause them to become seriously unwell. And if a person is on treatment for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, poppers can also cause seriously low blood pressure which may lead to stroke.”