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Pop This! [Ask Dr. Miro: What You Didn’t Learn In Health Class]

Dear Dr. Miro,

I’ve been using Poppers for about five years to enhance my sexual experiences and I’m starting to worry that they may affect my future health. What are the long-term side effects of using poppers? Everyone seems to have them in the clubs and I’ve never heard really bad stories from any of the guys I share them with but…

Poppin’ With the Boys

Dear PWtB,

First, for those who do not know, Poppers, or Amyl Nitrite, Butyl Nitrite and Amyl Nitrate, are gas substances which when inhaled, or huffed, can create feelings of excitability, giddiness, lowering of inhibitions and heightened sensual awareness for about a minute in the user. They can be very popular as the brief period of intoxication can increase the bliss of a sexual experience. Unfortunately, as the high is so short (I’m talking about a minute) the possibility of over dose is pretty high since the “huffer” will want do a bunch of hits in succession.

Here is how it works: A vapor is released from a vial, which causes your veins and arteries to dilate resulting in the blood flowing faster through the heart and the brain. In other words, MASSIVE Vasodilation! Nitrates improve blood flow through blocked arteries and amyl and butyl nitrites increase your heart rate, dilate your arteries and cause your blood pressure to drop. This produces a “rush” as your heart struggles to keep blood flowing to your brain. There is a warm flash and intense sexual desire. Also, the smooth muscles are incredibly relaxed by this dilation. This means the blood vessels, stomach and other parts, yes, but more importantly for recreational use is the relaxation of the sphincter muscles making anal sex much easier.

The name Popper is left over from when the drug came in a small glass tube that, when opened by crushing, made a POP sound. Now there is a simple screw top. Various forms of Poppers can be found in sex shops, record stores and clubs. Generally they are marketed under the guise of vinyl cleaner, liquid incense and room deodorizer.

Other than the understood risk of engaging in riskier sexual behavior than you would while sober, there are other dangerous mind and body altering states that may be incurred in the short term. These include, but are definitely not limited to, dizziness, fatigue, nosebleeds, vomiting, memory loss, disorientation, and panic. Poppers are not physically addictive though some folks do form a psychological connection. This may result in the belief that sex is not possible, or fun, with out them.

What I’m about to relay are extreme health concerns after massive abuse but still remain as possibilities. As far as long term effects, you are looking at permanent damage to the brain, bones, heart, kidneys and liver. Not only that but, with excessive, long-term use, you may face permanent hearing loss, as well as chronic tremors and slurred speech. Continued abuse can also result in emotional instability, mental disturbance and ongoing hallucinations. These are extreme cases, to be sure, but they are still pretty big issues. PLUS, there is something called “Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome” which is a type of suffocation due to excessive huffing. So, there are these matters to keep in mind alongside the possibility of heart failure and death as long-term side effects. Like I said, the chances are slim of the above happening but remain things you should be aware of.

A few words to the wise:
1. Please do NOT take Poppers in conjunction with Viagra because this deadly combination can cause a severe drop in blood pressure, resulting in fainting, stroke or heart attack.
2. Do NOT take in tandem with any stimulants (such as coke, speed or ecstasy), as this will also, definitely, be too much on your heart.
3. If you are planning on having sex, put the condom on BEFORE huffing just to be safe!
4. Do NOT use near any fire source, such as candles or cigarettes because Poppers are HIGHLY flammable!
5. Be smart about your fun,

Lust & Happiness,
Dr. Miro

featured image credit: ensenbahner