What are poppers? Are they safe?


What are poppers? Are they safe?

Poppers are also called liquid amyl nitrites. They’re short-lasting drugs that cause head-rushes, muscle relaxation, and increased blood flow. Effects start in seconds and last for a few minutes. You can find them as liquids that turn into a vapor that people inhale.

A lot of people use poppers during sex! They can help some people have safer sex by reducing pain and injury. They also lower the risk of tearing from anal or vaginal sex. In Canada, they are common in nightlife and sex, especially for men who have sex with men.

Are poppers safe?

There is very little risk of dependency from poppers. Overdose is very rare too. If someone does overdose, hospitals can treat it.

There’s a higher risk for people with certain medical conditions like….

  • recent head trauma
  • bleeding into the head
  • glaucoma
  • heart disease

Some medications and recreational drugs can also increase the risk, including…

  • drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction
  • high blood pressure medications
  • certain migraine drugs
  • high doses of aspirin

Poppers can also have some risk for chemical burns if you come into direct contact with the liquid itself. The liquid is very flammable, so they should always be used away from any open flames. Poppers are only meant to be inhaled; it’s important to remember to never drink them!

How can you make poppers safer?

There’s a low risk for dependency or addiction from poppers. They’re generally safe when you inhale them, but there can be some risks.

Like any substance, there can be risks to using poppers. But there are ways to lower the risk:

  • Don’t use them alongside Viagra or other medications designed to treat erectile dysfunction or control blood pressure
  • Avoid smoking, candles, and other sources of open flames
  • Only inhale poppers, never ingest the liquid directly
  • Use a cotton ball over the opening of the bottle to avoid spills
  • Use them when you’re with another person so if anything does go wrong, you’re not alone!

Poppers and harm reduction

Harm reduction sometimes looks at substituting one drug for another. This is a realistic and helpful strategy to help people stay away from drugs that can have more risks. Because of the low risks from poppers, some people use them instead of other drugs like meth for chemsex.

Are there alternatives to poppers?

While there are some products that are sold as alternatives to poppers, like the common brand Maximum Impact, these products aren’t usually safer. That’s because they may contain solvents that are harmful to inhale, and can cause more severe side effects than poppers. It’s usually recommended that if someone is going to use poppers, they use genuine poppers, and use them in moderation.

While there are other drugs that have the same medical effects as poppers, like aspirin and nitroglycerine, these drugs don’t have the same recreational side effects that poppers do. If someone wants to recreate the “head rush” and relaxation that comes with using poppers, there are lots of things to try! Spending time on foreplay before sex can help with muscle relaxation and make penetrative sex easier. Other legal drugs, like alcohol and cannabis, can also give a feeling of relaxation, euphoria, and lowered inhibitions.

More info

Poppers 101 | Freddie

Information about what poppers are, the history behind poppers, and ways to practice safe sex while using poppers.


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