Amyl nitrite is an inhalant that is a member of the alkyl nitrite family. Although often referred to as amyl nitrate, nitrate is a diesel fuel additive and although their names are similar, they are two separate things, not to be confused.
Amyl nitrite was first synthesized in a laboratory in 1844 by French chemist Antoine Balard. It has been used as a medical treatment throughout the world since the 1860s, most often to treat heart conditions such as angina. However, with the emergence of more effective treatments for these conditions, it is no longer prescribed as a heart medication to the same extent. This drug has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of cyanide poisoning.
Amyl nitrite is a vasodilator, which means that it dilates the blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow through and thus lowering blood pressure.
Since the 1970s, amyl nitrite has also been used as a recreational drug, often referred to as “poppers”. The name comes from the early forms of amyl nitrite drugs, which came in the form of crushable ampoules (which then made the “pop” sound) that people with angina had to inhale. Today, however, for recreational use, it is usually in the form of a liquid in a small bottle.
Although it is usually a clear liquid, it is the vapor of the drug that is inhaled through the nostrils. Amyl nitrite is very toxic and can be fatal if drunk
When snorted, it immediately produces a variety of effects such as feelings of euphoria, head “spinning”, warmth, excitement, heightened consciousness, muscle relaxation, increased heart rate and dizziness.
The strength and duration of the effects depend largely on the dose taken, which is determined by the depth and duration of inhalation, but they occur quickly and usually last no more than a few minutes. The initial euphoria is usually followed by a headache.
In the UK, US and other countries, it is illegal to possess amyl nitrite without a prescription.
Most modern “poppers” sold legally in stores no longer contain amyl nitrite because it has been banned. However, poppers containing other similar chemicals, such as isopropyl nitrite, are still available. They are often sold under brands such as Liquid Gold, Rush, Purple Haze and Buzz. Since it is illegal to sell these products as a recreational drug, they are often marketed and promoted as “home fragrances. The broad group of poppers can be referred to as nitrites.
However, poppers containing the original substance, amyl nitrite, are still found on the black market and in some foreign countries, where they are still allowed to be produced and sold. They are also sold under brand names, Jungle Juice being one of the most common, although many versions have been sold under that name, all of which do not contain amyl nitrite.
Street names for amyl nitrite include Snappers, Amyls, Aimes, Amys and Pearls. It is also commonly referred to as amyl nitrate (which is a different chemical, as explained above) or “animal nitrate.
When a person inhales amyl nitrite, they experience an intense but brief euphoria. This euphoria is accompanied by warm tingling sensations in the head and elsewhere in the body, excitement, muscle relaxation and head spinning.
Amyl nitrite and other nitrites have been known to be used by some people to enhance the sensations of sexual experiences, as it relaxes the muscles and temporarily increases sensitivity. It is also widely used as a drug in nightclubs and to enhance the effects of other drugs.
The main reason for the effects of amyl nitrite is that it, like other alkyl nitrites, relaxes the involuntary “smooth” muscles of the body, especially those surrounding blood vessels. This vasodilation widens the blood vessels, producing an influx of blood and oxygen throughout the body.
In addition to the desired effects of recreational use, there can be many negative effects. Immediately after inhaling amyl nitrite, some may experience nosebleeds, breathing problems, and nausea. Heavy use is often followed by headaches. When combined with other drugs, especially those that also affect blood pressure such as Viagra, there is a significant risk of unconsciousness and deaths have been recorded. People with blood pressure problems are also at greater risk.
Because it can disinhibit and create a feeling of excitement, amyl nitrite can also lead to dangerous behavior, with users not hesitating to take risks. In addition, experimentation with inhalants such as nitrites can lead to the use of harder drugs.
If swallowed, amyl nitrite becomes extremely dangerous and can even be fatal. This can happen if a person does not know how to take an inhalant and decides to try it without understanding how it should be taken. It also causes severe irritation and burns the skin and eyes if touched.
Amyl nitrite is legally manufactured for medical purposes by pharmaceutical companies around the world. In many countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, it is illegal to sell it without a pharmaceutical license, but it is not illegal to consume or possess it. This has sometimes allowed some people to legally import the substance from countries that allow its production without restriction. China, in particular, has a large number of amyl nitrite manufacturers.
In addition to these commercially produced vials of “poppers”, supplies of drugs for medical use can also be obtained through fraud, theft and detour and then sold on the black market.
Poppers containing other legal nitrites can often be manufactured without restriction, but are rarely marketed for purposes other than their known recreational use, such as video head cleaner or home fragrance. They are often sold in sex shops and in stores selling drug paraphernalia. They can also be found on stands at music festivals and other events in the UK and elsewhere.
Many poppers are sold on the Internet, on specialized sites, under various brand names. It can be very difficult for users to know exactly what is in the small vials they buy. Casual users are often unaware of the differences between inhalants containing amyl nitrite and those containing other nitrites such as butyl nitrite.
Amyl nitrite is sometimes made in home laboratories, although this requires a great deal of chemical knowledge and skill that is not available to everyone.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
- Amyl nitrite is an inhalant – a type of drug consumed by inhaling its vapors.
It is often confused with amyl nitrate, an entirely different substance used as a fuel additive.
- Amyl nitrite has legitimate medical uses, as a vasodilator used to treat angina and cyanide poisoning.
- It is used recreationally by people seeking brief but intense energy and pleasure.
- It is most often sold as a small vial containing a clear liquid, colloquially called “poppers”.
- Not all poppers contain amyl nitrite, however, and may contain other chemicals in the alkyl nitrite family to circumvent restrictions.
- In the United Kingdom, amyl nitrite is not classified as a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, but it is regulated under the 1968 Medicines Act, and is a prescription-only drug.
- Recreational use of amyl nitrite and other forms of poppers has in the past been largely associated with the gay community, but its use has since expanded to include mainly young people who occasionally use drugs in nightclubs.
- Contact with the skin can result in burns and irritation.
- If swallowed, it can be fatal.
- Some people take amyl nitrite along with Viagra. This is particularly dangerous because both drugs are used to lower blood pressure, which can then drop low enough to cause unconsciousness or even death.
- Amyl nitrite is not known to be addictive.
- Amyl nitrite takes only a few seconds to take effect.
- Its effects usually wear off after 2-3 minutes.
- According to a 2009 U.S. survey on health and drug use, 2.1 million Americans over the age of 12 admitted to using inhalants during that year.
- Another study found that 22.9 million Americans had used inhalants for recreational and experimental purposes at some point in their lives.
- A 2010 study by British Crime found that 1.1% of Britons aged 16-59 had taken amyl nitrite in the previous year.
- In the category of substances called inhalants (which also includes lighter refills, aerosols, solvents and markers, some anesthetics, and other items whose vapors cause a psychoactive effect), nitrites are the most commonly used by adults.
- According to a U.S. study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, inhalants are often the first contact children have with recreational drug use. The 2005 study found that more than 17% of students about 13-14 years old had used some form of inhalant on one or more occasions.
- Inhalants are frequently used in many parts of the world among disadvantaged children living on the street because they are inexpensive compared to the harder drugs to which inhalant use can lead. In Romania, a study conducted by a charity estimated that 74% of homeless children had used inhalants.
SIGNS OF ADDICTION
Although amyl nitrite is not considered physically or psychologically addictive, it can still be used regularly. This habit of seeking out and using this drug among teenagers can set the stage for the use of harder drugs, with more serious consequences.
One of the signs that a person is using amyl nitrite or poppers containing a similar chemical is the presence of small, usually brown vials in their pockets, bags or bedside table drawer. These bottles contain a liquid and may have a brightly colored label with a brand name, such as Liquid Gold or Kick, which may indicate that the product is intended for use as a home fragrance and should not be inhaled. If the cap is unscrewed, this liquid has a slight sweet, chemical smell.
Sometimes tissues or rags may be soaked with the substance to allow for inhalation, which is another evidence of consumption.
Other signs of consumption include frequent skin problems and irritation around the mouth and nose, as if the liquid itself accidentally comes into contact with the skin, it can cause burns and irritation.
Right after consuming amyl nitrite, a person may have a red face. They may also act strangely, at least momentarily, such as laughing uncontrollably, appearing euphoric or dizzy.
Frequent use may cause prolonged headaches and mood changes, but there is little data available on the effects of prolonged use. Again, while poppers themselves are not addictive, they can lead to the use of drugs that are.
As mentioned above, amyl nitrite is not known to be addictive, so there is no risk of withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it. Many people who use amyl nitrite or other forms of poppers do so occasionally and infrequently, so no specific treatment is needed.
However, some users, particularly teenagers and young people with little access to other drugs, may use it more frequently on a daily basis to get high. In these cases, the best approach may be education, confrontation and parental intervention. This is often the first substance the person has experimented with and they may not know the effects or risks. Calmly explaining the effects that inhalants can have on the body and the risks involved can be much more effective than getting angry and punishing.
For young users, discussing popper use early on can play a key role in discouraging the young person from continuing to experiment with drugs and preventing them from developing the habit of seeking and using drugs.
Amyl nitrite can sometimes be used with other drugs, especially other inhalants, which are by their nature easy to obtain, even for children and adolescents. Inhalants, which are consumed by breathing in their chemical vapors, include, for example, aerosols (deodorants, spray paint, air fresheners), solvent-based glues, gas (butane) in lighters and refills, nitrous oxide, correction fluids, thinners, some markers and solvents.
Common terms for the act of using inhalants include “huffing,” “sniffing,” “snorting” and “bagging.
Although the effects of inhalants are relatively short-lived compared to illicit drugs, they are popular because of the speed with which the effects are felt, often within seconds.
Frequent use of amyl nitrite can lead to many unpleasant side effects, and if combined with other drugs such as alcohol and Viagra, it can dramatically lower blood pressure and be fatal.
The risks associated with experimenting with other inhalants may be more dangerous than the risks associated with amyl nitrite use. Sudden Inhalation Death Syndrome (SIDS) has been associated with the use of some inhalants, but not with amyl nitrite. It is a completely unpredictable medical emergency that can occur when huffing inhalants excessively disrupts the heartbeat to the point of cardiac arrest. This can happen at any time during the use of inhalants and is not necessarily due to a particularly high dose. In addition, a person may use a certain product several times without consequence, before suffering a sudden inhalation death syndrome. This can result in death or brain damage and other lasting problems.
When someone is found to be using amyl nitrite, it is especially important to explain the dangers of inhalants. For young children and adolescents with a history of frequent use, psychological help and counselling may be needed to help them deal with mental health and life issues that may be causing them to use substances. This may address the specific problem of amyl nitrite use, but also the tendency to seek drugs more generally.