Poppers is the street name for a range of chemical compounds belonging to the alkyl nitrite family.
Legally available from sex shops and some local stores, they come as a clear or yellow liquid in a small bottle which is sniffed by the user. It is extremely dangerous to swallow this liquid. Poppers can enhance the feelings of sexual arousal and also act as a muscle relaxant which can be used to make anal sex easier.
It is thought that poppers can cause serious health problems if used with other drugs. In fact using poppers after taking erection drugs such as Viagra may cause a fatal drop in blood pressure. So-called ‘recreational’ drugs such as ecstasy, speed, cocaine or crystal meth all put a strain on the heart. Taking them with poppers may stress it even more. Poppers should not be used by anyone with chest or heart problems, anemia or glaucoma.
While there is no evidence to demonstrate the long term effects of using poppers, it is thought that prolonged use can cause intense headaches, sores around the mouth and nose and compulsive dependency.
When using poppers during anal sex they make the blood vessels inside a man’s (or woman’s) anus expand or bleed. This can make it more likely for HIV to be passed on if a negative person uses poppers while having sex with a man with HIV (The negative person is more at risk if being penetrated).
Poppers are highly flammable.