Nitrites are a range of synthetically-produced chemicals designed to be inhaled.
Poppers, nitro, nitrite
Forms and Appearance
Poppers are sold in small glass bottles under various brand names.
Medical and Other Uses
In the past, nitrites were sold in chemist shops as a treatment for heart problems, e.g. angina. Sufferers carried small glass capsules containing nitrite liquid in a special case. When they felt chest pains, they put a glass capsule inside a handkerchief, and crushed it with their fingers . (The name ‘popper’ came from the popping sound of the capsule giving way. The name has continued to be used for nitrites in screw-topped bottles.) The fumes released were inhaled from the handkerchief and dilated the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart muscle. This increased blood flow and eased the pain.
Nitrites have now been replaced by a range of specific drugs for heart disorders.
Methods of Use
Most users inhale directly from the bottle, or from a handkerchief, tissue, or piece of cloth.
Effects of Use
The fumes dilate all the blood vessels in the body, and increase the blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. Therefore, the user will feel a ‘head rush’. This can be followed by: short-lived feelings of excitement and exhilaration; increased heart beat; pleasant feelings of dizziness and disorientation; and increased sexual arousal.
Adverse effects include: nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness. Nitrites are poisonous if swallowed, and can cause damage to vision if splashed into the user’s eyes. They can also cause skin problems such as dermatitis if they come into contact with the skin.
Tolerance and Dependence
Regular users of poppers soon develop a tolerance.
No physical dependence seems to develop with use, and very few users develop any psychological dependence.
No withdrawal effects have been reported associated with stopping the use of poppers.
There appears to be little risk of overdose. However, all the nitrites sold as poppers are poisonous and can be life-threatening if swallowed instead of inhaled.