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Let's Talk About - Poppers

Published: 09 July 2018 Tags: Poppers By Tyler Andrew

This week Tyler Andrew from our drugs and alcohol team provides a need to know guide on Poppers.

Poppers (Ram, Thrust, Rock Hard, Kix, TNT, Liquid Gold) are a liquid chemical (alkyl nitrites), sold in small bottles. As drugs go, poppers are widely regarded to be harmless, hardly even ‘drugs’ at all. But they are drugs, and probably one of the most commonly used by gay and bisexual men, due to their historic use in the LGBT club scene to give a short, sharp head-rush like ‘high’. And their ability to help relax anal sphincter muscles of course.

Those sphincters just need to do some yoga or something.

So where’s the harm?

  • The effects are immediate and do not last long, but can leave you feeling sick, faint and weak (can confirm from personal experience!) with poor coordination. It can also cause extreme headaches (yep!), rashes round the mouth and burns to the skin.
  • It should never be swallowed as it’s toxic and can kill. They were originally used to treat angina, and were never intended for recreational use, never mind knocking back like a free shot at a party.
  • You can die due to reduced oxygen supply to vital organs, or losing consciousness and choking on your vomit. Mixing poppers with alcohol can also increase this risk.
  • If you take Viagra® or any other blood pressure medication, poppers can cause your blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels. Those with heart problems are even at risk of death (fatal ‘sudden sniffing death syndrome’ has been reported due to development of an abnormal heart rhythm when taking poppers) and can be potentially dangerous for those with anaemia or glaucoma (an eye disease.)
  • Poppers are usually sniffed, although some prefer to dip a cigarette into the popper bottle and then inhale though the cigarette. But it’s important to be careful as poppers are highly flammable – people have mistakenly burnt themselves or others, even burning off their eyebrows.
  • Linked with risky sexual behaviour – may lead to catching a sexually transmitted infection.
  • Can burn your skin on contact.
  • Extreme as it sounds, there have been cases of temporary and permanent loss of vision in regular, long-term use of poppers. This problem is referred to as ‘poppers maculopathy’. If you experience problems with your eyesight after using poppers, we strongly advise seeking medical advice.

The next time you’re out and someone’s casually passing round a popper, make your own choices by all means, but don’t assume it comes without risks, especially if you’ve never tried it before.

As with any drug, we all react to them differently to varying degrees of severity, so if you try at all, try small amounts first.


Drug types information

Talk to Frank information on Poppers