Parents Understanding Drugs

Amyl Nitrites

What it looks like

poppers are sold in small bottles under name like liquid gold

A clear yellow liquid, which smells sweet when it's fresh and 'sweaty' when it's not.

It is also known as Butyl Nitrite, Alkyl Nitrite, Poppers, TNT, and Liquid Gold.

It is categorised as a stimulant.

How it's taken

The vapour is breathed in through the nose or mouth from a small bottle or tube.


How it's taken

There is almost an instant 'head rush' with flushed face and neck which lasts for only two to five minutes. poppers are inhaled and produce a short lived, quick high


Short term: Pounding headaches, nausea, fainting, and bulging eyes. If spilled it can burn the skin and may be fatal if swallowed. People with anaemia, glaucoma and breathing or heart problems are most at risk.

Long term: Regular use can lead to tolerance (greater amount needed to produce same effect) and an increase in risks listed above.

poppers are sold as room deodorisers in small bottles of liquid

Legal Status

Amyl nitrite is very rarely used in medicine these days but is controlled under the Medicines Act. Possession is not illegal but supply can be an offence. There have been cases where the Medicines Act was used to fine shops for selling them, but they are still sold as Room Aromas or Deodorisers in sex shops and some clubs.

So what exactly are poppers?

the market for poppers is large enough to support numerous brands

Crawley Police have seized a batch of poppers thinking - incorrectly - that they were covered by the new blanket ban on legal highs. But what exactly are poppers? For the benefit of Crawley police officers and others, The Independent offers this guide.

Poppers are substances in the group of chemicals known as alkyl nitrites. Originally amyl nitrites were used. Now isopropyl nitrite tends to be more common. Poppers are usually sold in small bottles, in the form of liquids that produce a vapour that can be inhaled.

It's not just head shops and online. They can be found for sale in some joke shops, as well as sex shops, and occasionally in pubs tobacconists, music stores, and clothes shops. For prices starting at about £3.50 a bottle

amyl nitrite is consumed from sealed bottles under many brand names

Drugs in the News

Nobel Peace Prize: Santos calls for 'rethink' of war on drugs

a nobel peace prize winner urges a rethink on the war on drugs

The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for the world to "rethink" the war on drugs.

He said the zero-tolerance policy might be "even more harmful" than all the other wars being fought worldwide.Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 8 December 2016

Heroin deaths prompt 'fix room'

a safe place for herion uses to safeguard against a bad batch

Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 26 November 2016

The babies starting life in rehab

babies born to addicts can be addicts from birth

According to NHS figures, 1,087 babies in England were affected by maternal use of drugs in 2014-15, while in Scotland 987 babies were affected.

BBC News, 25 November 2016

GHB: The killer drug

an increasing number of people are dying from GHB

The Metropolitan Police has said it will examine 58 GHB-related deaths, following the conviction of serial killer Stephen Port.

BBC News, 25 November 2016

Club drug testing 'may be useful'

anonymous drug testing at events can save lives

A leading police chief says recreational drug testing "may be very useful". Commander Bray is in discussion with the government about it.

Newsbeat, 24 November 2016

MPs call for cannabis legalisation

more mps in the UK call for the legalisation of cannabis

Britain should follow America's lead and legalise cannabis, and rake in £1 billion a year in tax revenues

Metro, 21 November 2016

Pharma's fight to block marijuana

the pharmaceutical industry is opposed to the legalisation of cannabis

Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month.

Guardian, 22 October 2016

10 years for cannabis for cancer

people are sent to prison for providing cannabis for medical treatment

Police in Denmark have arrested a man and woman on suspicion of providing cannabis to cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses.

Independent, 5 October 2016

UK National Drugs helpline: 0300 123 6600

The National Drugs Helpline is a 24-hour, 7-days a week, free and confidential telephone service that offers advice and information for anyone.

It is run by the government agency, known as FRANK, created to provide drug support and advice for the public.

If you need emergency help, are worried about a friend or relative's drug use or want support coping with your own, contact FRANK on-line contact or by phone.

New research finds poppers may cause lasting eye damage

the use of poppers may lead to eye damage according to new research

New research carried out has found that using poppers may cause permanent eye damage. The study, carried out at Cheltenham General Hospital in the UK, found that the legal high could have a "serious affect" on vision.

An ingredient in the high, isobutylene nitrite was changed for isopropyl nitrite after it was linked to cancer. However, the replacement is now believed to have an impact on the fovea, part of the retina crucial to central vision.

Pink News, 16 April 2017

What are poppers - and why did Keith Vaz want to get them?

the mp keith vaz was found to be using poppers with male escorts

Keith Vaz allegedly asked an escort to bring the party drug poppers with him before a sexual encounter which was revealed this week - and piqued a lot of people's curiosity.

The drug opens up blood vessels and increases blood flow - and are commonly used by gay men during sex. In 2016, Keith Vaz publicly defended use of poppers saying: 'They have a beneficial effect in enabling anal sex'.

Metro, 5 September 2016

The secret poppers trade fuelling Dubai's gay scene

while gay sex is illegal in Dubai, there is a large gay scene

Gay sex may be illegal in Dubai, but that hasn't prevented a sizable gay scene flourishing. It's not even that secret once you know where to look. Expats and locals meet in certain hotel bars, or cruise Deira Public Park.

Invite-only parties take place in the luxury private apartments that line the Palm Islands and most get around the ban on gay mobile apps by downloading a VPN (virtual private network).

Dazed, 4 June 2016

So what exactly are poppers?

poppers are exempt from the ban on previously legal highs

Crawley Police have seized a batch of poppers thinking incorrectly that they were covered by the new blanket ban on legal highs. But what are poppers?

They are substances in the group of chemicals known as alkyl nitrites. Originally amyl nitrites were used. Now isopropyl nitrite tends to be more common. Poppers are usually sold in small bottles, in the form of liquids that produce a vapour that can be inhaled.

Independent, 27 May 2016

Crawley Police Forced To Apologise After Wrongly Seizing Poppers

the crawley police wrongly confiscated a batch of poppers after the ban on legal highs

Crawley Police have been forced into making an embarrassing series of apologies after seizing a haul of poppers they wrongly thought were now illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, that came into effect on Thursday.

The force began the day by retweeting a post from Sussex Police notifying people that legal highs were now "not as legal as you thought".

Huffington, 26 May 2016

Salisbury Praises Conservatives For Repealing Poppers Ban

the residents of salibury were pleased that poppers were not pleased

Residents in the city of Salisbury are being treated to an offer on a sex enhancement drug - and the deal's certainly not one to be sniffed at.

People there are celebrating after ministers U-turned on plans to outlaw alkyl nitrites, otherwise known as poppers. According to FRANK, the government's drug advice website, poppers "make it easier for some people to have anal sex".

Huffington, 22 April 2016

What is chemsex? And how worried should we be?

chemsex refers to men using drugs to enable sex with other men

Strictly speaking, chemsex refers to gay or bisexual men using drugs to facilitate sex with other men. Culturally, though, it has become a catch-all term for sex involving drugs and "chemsex parties", where groups of gay and bisexual men meet up, get high, and have sex with one another.

It's important to note that it's distinct from drug use which later leads to sexual activity.

New Stateman, 8 April 2016

Poppers 'not part of legal highs ban'

poppers are not included in the ban on all substances that have an impact on mental processes

Government drugs advisers have said poppers, used by many gay men to enhance sexual experience, will not be covered by a ban on legal highs.

The Psychoactive Substances Act makes it illegal to supply drugs which have a direct effect on mental processes, unless the drug is exempted. Ministers had indicated that poppers would be included in the ban. But advisers say poppers have only a peripheral effect on the brain.

BBC News, 16 March 2016

How gay culture bottled a formula that has broken down boundaries

poppers are common on the gay scene

Prowler on Brewer Street in Soho is the UK's largest gay lifestyle superstore. Past rails of neon elasticated underwear and shelves of pornographic comic books, neat rows of small, colourful bottles stand on top of the sales counter.

With names including Buzz, Rush, Deep and Hard On, these are poppers - alkyl nitrites in liquid form that cause a head-rush when inhaled and were banned by the Government this week.

Independent, 22 January 2016

Poppers Ban: It's Not Just the Law Being Tightened

poppers are used widely by gay men before having sex

My first experience with poppers came at the tender age of 17. Having schmoozed my way into a nightclub with a pocketful of change and a huge dollop of youthful charm, I made my way to the dance floor. Before I knew it, an older guy sidled up to me and thrust a small bottle under my nose. Instinctively, I inhaled in surprise; very quickly, a head-rush had consumed me, sending a warm, fuzzy sensation through my body and enhancing the beat and bass of the music.

Huffington Post, 21 January 2016

Crispin Blunt, Tory MP, announced he is a recreational user of poppers

the mp crispin blunt admitted to using poppers and stated that a ban on poppers would be stupid

Crispin Blunt has announced he is a user of the recreational drug known as poppers. Mr Blunt wasn't forced into a corner to confess - he felt it was his "duty to speak out against a fantastically stupid proposal to prohibit poppers.

He said: "There are some times when something is proposed which becomes personal to you and you realise the Government is about to do something fantastically stupid and one has a duty to speak up."

Independent, 20 January 2016

What are Alkyl Nitrites (poppers)?

alkyl nitrites are commonly known as alkyl nitrites

'Poppers' are short lasting drugs, called alkyl nitrites, which cause a headrush and muscle relaxation. They are liquids that vapourise for inhaling. The first, amyl nitrite, was made in 1844 and was used to relieve angina. Recreational use of amyl nitrite started in the 1960s. After consequent restrictions on its production and use, various other alkyl nitrites appeared. The main examples include: isopropyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite and butyl nitrite.

Drug Science, 2016

Poppers - What's the Score?

poppers are liquids that vaporise quickly allowing them to be sniffed

Poppers are also known as: amyl/butyl/isobutyl nitrite, amyl (especially in Australia, where it's promounced 'ammul'), aromas and by brand names like Liquid Gold, Rush, etc. They're often (but wrongly) called 'nitrates', which is a similar, but different chemical.

Poppers are a liquid made from the alkyl nitrite family. The name comes from when they came in glass capsules that popped when broken open.

Trade Sexual Health, 2016

It's Time to Loosen Up About Poppers

the government is introducing legislation that amounts to a blanket ban on substances that produce a high

Poppers, a plastic pot of acetone smelling gas, passed around by teenagers in night clubs or gay men in the bedroom. A head rush and you're done.

Yet sweeping drug law reform threatens to inflict the harshest of sentences for their use or sale. In the absence of medical evidence, in the maelstrom of moral panic around "legal highs", our Home Secretary has imposed heavy new criminal punishments for a range of substances previously seen as harmless.

Huffington, 10 November 2015

Get informed! - Poppers

poppers relax muscles making anal sex easier

Poppers can be used either on their own or with other drugs to enhance their effects.

They are often favoured by gay and bisexual men to enhance sex as, amongst other things, they relax the anus which can ease discomfort during penetrative intercourse. Some people can achieve a 'high' from using Poppers and can realise a sense of sexual excitement and heightened sensual awareness.

LGBT Foundation, 10 November 2015

Five people taken to hospital after 'drinking poppers'

drinking poppers is dangerous landing people in hospital

At least five people have fallen ill after drinking suspected "legal highs" at Parklife festival over the weekend.

Four people have been discharged from North Manchester General Hospital but a 26-year-old woman is still being treated. Her condition is not known. Greater Manchester Police said festival-goers had been drinking poppers, which are usually sniffed.

Independent, 8 June 2015

Hey Straight People, You're Using Poppers Wrong

poppers were made popular by the gay community

The acceptance of gay men and lesbians by America is a double-edged sword. Homosexuals can now serve in the military, adopt children, and marry.

It also means that some of the wonderful things that were kept in the darker nooks and crannies of the gay world are now seeing the light of day and, like most awesome things that gay people started, straight people are now discovering and totally ruining them.

Vice, 21 December 2012

Vision: A Quick High for Sex May Damage Vision

there appears to be evidence that using poppers can impair eyesight

Poppers can be inhaled for a quick high or to enhance sexual pleasure. Now French doctors are warning they can cause eye damage and impaired vision.

In a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine, the ophthalmologists describe four cases over three months in which patients' vision was affected after they used poppers at parties. Several complained of seeing bright dots of light, and retinal imaging revealed damage to the photoreceptors in the fovea.

New York Times, 18 October 2010

The inhalable nitrites may be the nearest thing to a true aphrodisiac

poppers are used to relax muscles making sex easier and can act as an aphrodisiac

The inhalable nitrites may be the nearest thing to a true aphrodisiac. About 250 million recreational doses are consumed yearly in the US.

The volatile nitrites are yellowish flammable liquids with an odor variously described as fruity or old gym socks. There are 2 forms: amyl nitrite, used in cardiology for conditions such as angina; and butyl nitrite, which is marketed as a "room odorizer," under names such as Quicksilver and Hardware.

A Compendium of Studies, 27 April 2006

Parents Understanding Drugs