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(amyl nitrite, butyl nitrate, isobutyl nitrite, TNT, liquid gold, rush etc.)

Amyl/butyl nitrite (poppers) is a powerful drug that can give you an almighty burst of dizzy energy for a couple of minutes.

The rush kicks in immediately, and for a few moments you'll feel like the bass drum has got inside your head, the lights have been turned up to a zillion watts and your heart is attempting a solo flight.

Generally coming in small glass bottles - or, more rarely, glass phials - costing between £2-£5, amyl nitrite is normally snorted out of the open bottle, although some people like to get adventurous by inhaling a cigarette that has been dipped into the liquid (do not light the cigarette! Amyl nitrite is is a highly volatile flammable liquid!)

First produced in 1857 as a treatment for angina, amyl nitrite evaporates at room temperature. The vapour released causes your veins and arteries to dilate resulting in the blood flowing faster through the heart and the brain.

On the dancefloor it feels like you've been hit by a percussive thunderbolt, and if you're having sex it feels like your sexual organs have grown to Herculean proportions. The effect only lasts for a few moments and you might feel a little light headed for a minute or so afterwards.

Some people react differently to amyl and suffer pounding headaches, dizziness and a flushed face, or feel like they're starring in 'Scanners'.


Side effects: Amyl can deliver the mother, father and immediate family of headaches. Never take amyl at work or at any place where there is a chance of physical danger - for the few moments that it kicks in you may well not be in control of your actions. If you're having a bit of a session and finding that it's becoming less effective, take a break from it.

If you're snorting poppers while having sex, there's a chance that the heady, sex-beast rush may make you lead you to risky sex - so slap on a condom before you break out the amyl.

Try not to take it with other stimulants (coke, speed, E etc.) as it could put too much strain on your heart. The liquid is also highly inflammable so be careful with your spliff!

Health risks: Anybody who suffers from circulatory problems or from low blood pressure should be particularly wary of this substance. Using poppers can be a serious health risk for those with heart trouble, breathing problems, or anaemia and glaucoma. Always wash off any amyl that spills on your skin and never drink the stuff - it is highly poisonous.

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, some scientists suspected poppers to be the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma or even AIDS itself. These links are now pretty well disproved.

However, there is evidence that using poppers does lower immune function, although the damage can be undone within a day or so.

People with impaired immune function should certainly think twice before taking snorting, but the idea that poppers cause permanent immune-system damage is speculative.


The Law: This is currently undergoing revision to close a rather strange loophole. Currently, the use and possession of poppers in NOT illegal, but the law is complex.

Poppers can be sold as 'room odourisors' but not inhalants, as this would classify them as a medicine and require a pharmacy to dispense them.

If you got nabbed selling poppers as inhalants, you would be committing a civil offence and would be prosecuted by the Medicines Control Agency (part of the Department of Health).

However, for those who desire to have your room smelling of old socks, poppers are still freely available from many sex shops and other outlets. Stock up on 'em while you can! In the US, nitrites have been banned since 1988.

More info:
All About Poppers
Poppers advice -

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Special note:
This site is all about harm reduction. We realise that some people will take drugs no matter what advice they are given, so we have reproduced this guide for information purposes only. It is not medical advice. If you are being coerced into taking drugs, or are in any doubt about taking a substance, our advice is to always refuse.

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