New research shows that poppers can cause all sorts of serious side-effects and can be deadly. They shouldn’t be so socially acceptable for gay men, says Rob Buchanan.
For many men they are as essential a component to a night of adult fun as condoms and lube, but it seems that poppers could be far more dangerous to physical and mental health than their prevalence, availability and use might imply.
Among some of the dangers reported in the new research are delirium, brain and nerve damage, and even sudden death by arrhythmia. Basically all the side-effects of sniffing glue or petrol. Yet, because of shiny packaging and social acceptability, people naively think they are safe.
For anyone new to the world of poppers, they are toxic organic chemical liquids based on alkyl and amyl nitrite. They were originally developed in the 19th century to treat angina and the original glass vials they came in from chemists had to be ‘popped’ to open.
A sniff causes blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to drop, delivering a short head rush and making your muscles to relax, notably sphincter muscle, thus facilitating anal sex.
Poppers are quite corrosive and cause irritation if they come in to contact with skin or eyes. I don’t use them due to the dangers involved and because they give me an almighty headache. Giddiness and muscle relaxation combined with disorientation is hardly a safe state of affairs, especially if you are in an unfamiliar setting with a stranger.
Poppers are also an element of the grimy and nihilistic world of gay ‘chem-sex’, which is increasingly becoming a factor on the Irish scene, where people consciously use illegal drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine to enhance sexual pleasure.
Sadly the only thing chem-sex seems to be enhancing, if EU and US figures are anything to go by, is the spread of HIV.
I would never dictate to anyone how to live their lives, but I would say that if it is difficult enough to maintain safety and control in a sexual encounter with a stranger while drunk, especially if you are the passive partner, so the potential dangers of introducing psychoactive drugs and solvent abuse into the equation are rife.
If you have been habitually using poppers or have been curious about them, please read up on them and consider the consequences.