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FDA Warns Against Nitrite “Poppers”

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The FDA recently issued a warning about the dangers of nitrite “poppers”. Read on to learn more about the seriousness of these drugs.

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 28 years experience.

What are poppers and why are they dangerous?

FDA Warns Against Nitrite “Poppers”

The FDA recently noticed an increase in hospitalizations and deaths linked to using nitrite “poppers”.  On June 24, 2021, the agency issued a statement warning consumers not to buy or use poppers that are typically sold on-line and in adult novelty shops.  They are marketed under the brand names of Super RUSH, Jungle Juice, Extreme Formula, Quick Silver, Premium Ironhorse and Super Rush Nail Polish Remover.

What Are Poppers?

Poppers are usually sold as a liquid and packaged as room deodorizers or leather cleaner.  They are usually packaged in 10mL to 40mL bottles that look like energy shot products.  The chemicals in the liquid produce a vapor that causes vasodilation in the body when inhaled.  It is actually related to the nitrate inhalation medications that are prescribed by physicians for angina attacks. Street names may include:

  • Aimes
  • Aimees
  • Snapper
  • Bold
  • Liquid gold
  • Rush
  • Purple haze
  • Buzz

How Are They Used?

Poppers are usually used by inhaling the vapors from the bottle. Some people dip the end of a cigarette into the bottle and inhale through the cigarette to avoid sniffing the chemicals directly from the packaging.

Why Are They Used?

Poppers are typically used recreationally to produce a feeling of euphoria or to enhance sexual experiences.

Instant High

People often use poppers for the “head rush” that is caused by the sudden increased blood flow. This can cause a euphoric feeling or instant high that general lasts only a few minutes. Some have described the rush as a “warm fuzzy” feeling that is caused by the side effects of vasodilation, including:

  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Warm sensation throughout the body

Sexual Enhancement

The vasodilation effects of amyl nitrites also relax smooth muscles in the anus and vagina, making sex more comfortable and sensations more intense.  Some men also take use poppers to prolong erections.

Serious Side Effects

The FDA released the warning against poppers based on an increase in hospitalizations and deaths with problems such as

  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Increased body temperature
  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme hypotension
  • Methemoglobinemia
  • Brain death

Here is a look at other problems people may experience when using poppers.

  • Respiratory problems (sinus issues, respiratory infections, wheezing)
  • Chemical burns around lips or nose
  • Allergic reactions
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Nosebleeds
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Impaired judgement

Dangerous With Other Drugs

Poppers are often used in combination with other illegal drugs to increase the high, including, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines and hallucinogens. This increases the risk of both psychiatric and physiological side effects.  The following medications when taken with poppers can cause a dangerously low blood pressure:

  • Viagra
  • Monoxidil (Rogaine)
  • Diuretics (I.e. furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide)
  • Beta Blockers (I.e. carvedilol, atenolol)
  • Calcium channel blockers (I.e. diltiazem, nicardipine)
  • Angiotensin II receptor antagonist (I.e. losartan, valsartan)
  • Vasodilators (I.e. terazosin, apresonline)

There is also research that suggests amyl nitrate can reduce the effectiveness of certain HIV medications, particularly protease inhibitors, such as indinavir, saquinavir mesylate and ritonavir.

Who Uses Poppers?

Amyl nitrite began being used for a recreational drug in the gay community during the 1960s.  Its use became widespread throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s in the club scene.  Today, people of all ages, races and sexual orientations use poppers.

Are Poppers Addictive?

Repeatedly using poppers can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD).  This occurs when someone continues to use poppers despite health problems or issues in everyday life.  Signs of a SUD including failing to meet personal responsibilities at home, work or school.  A SUD be mild to severe, and an addiction would be the most severe. 

People who have tried to quit using inhalants may have the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Poor appetite
  • Sweating
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood changes

For more information on inhalants and addiction, visit this National Institute on Drug Abuse website.

Do you have a clinical or personal experience with inhalants you are willing to share?  


References

Is amyl nitrite safe? Who uses poppers?

Nitrite ‘Poppers’: Here’s Why FDA Warned Against Their Use For Fun, Sex

J. Adderton MSN has over 28 years experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

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6 Comment(s)

TheMoonisMyLantern, ADN, LPN, RN

Specializes in Mental health, substance abuse, geriatrics, PCU. Has 14 years experience.

Excellent article, definitely commonly used within the gay community here where I live and has been for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately the use has been so normalized that many people don't realize that poppers can be dangerous especially when combined with other drugs.

I wouldn't be surprised if the increased hospitalizations and deaths are coming from mixing poppers with ED drugs as they are becoming more easily accessible and more acceptable to use among all ages of men. 

Tweety, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 28 years experience.

A blast from the past.  Very popular in the gay community back in the day.

I remember poppers when I first came out in the late 70's and gay guys were sniffing them on the dance floor while drunk or high.  I tried them plenty of times back then but really hated the feeling of my head exploding and stopped.   Somehow I instinctively knew this couldn't be good for you.

I know they moved from the dance floor to the bedroom for sex and even solo masturbation.  

Good to see some education happening all these years later.

DavidFR, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology, ID, Hepatology, Occy Health. Has 35 years experience.

Been there too. Wasn't a massive user but did indulge on the dancefloor. As Tweety says, I knew they were probably not good for me but did I care at that age? The follies of youth. In the UK they were on sale openly over the bar. Were withdrawn here in France a few years back - probably a good thing.

Does bring back memories though.

🎼🎶High energy, your love is lifting me, lifting me higher!🎵

I can feel the glitter ball coming out.

SmilingBluEyes

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 24 years experience.

I have seen referrals to "popper friendly" in ads. I always wondered what this meant. Now I know a thing. No thanks, not for me. Will know that it is among others, though and what to look for. Thank you!

 

rockchickrn, ADN

Specializes in Psych. Has 26 years experience.

Why are these things even legal? Sounds dangerous……

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 28 years experience.

On 7/17/2021 at 7:36 AM, Tweety said:

A blast from the past.  Very popular in the gay community back in the day.

I remember poppers when I first came out in the late 70's and gay guys were sniffing them on the dance floor while drunk or high.  I tried them plenty of times back then but really hated the feeling of my head exploding and stopped.   Somehow I instinctively knew this couldn't be good for you.

I know they moved from the dance floor to the bedroom for sex and even solo masturbation.  

Good to see some education happening all these years later.

Thanks for the interesting inside scoop. Sounds like wild times!