Although the inhaled recreational drugs known as "poppers" have been around for decades a new trend of huffing poppers is on the rise again. Poppers is the slang term given to the chemical class called alkyl nitrates which are mainly sold in cap vials and inhaled usually as a sexual stimulant.
New versions of poppers contain harmful solvents and propellants that are extremely dangerous to the user. Poppers have been popular among gay men to enhance their sexual experience because it relaxes the muscles and has mild psychoactive effects.Now some solvents are being marketed as a "new form of poppers" that are different than the traditional drug and could potentially be more dangerous than before.
Although the trend of huffing poppers has been going on for a number of years it may be increasing due to these new drugs being available for people to experiment with.
The Difference between Old and New Poppers
Traditional poppers were given their nickname because of glass ampoules that "popped" and were made from amyl nitrate. The substance triggers production of nitric oxide and produces a potent effect of widening the blood vessels.
Since the 1980s it has been restricted to medical uses in the United States and Europe but a number of related alkyl nitrates are still available in legal or semi-legal form. Conventional poppers are inhaled directly from the bottle in small amounts.
The new forms of poppers have enticing brand names such as "Maximum Impact" but they can cause much more damage to a person's health than traditional poppers. The new poppers are more similar to inhalants that can cause health effects such as a fatal arrhythmia in some individuals.
New products contain solvents and propellants which can have a greater risk in causing long-term neurocognitive damage than traditional nitrate poppers. The trend now is for these new poppers to be marketed toward the gay community but people may not recognize the difference between huffing solvents and propellants and using alkyl nitrate poppers.Users might not be completely aware of the greater health risks associated with new poppers.
Educating the Community about Poppers
There has been little attention paid to these substances and the possibility of users becoming addicted or suffering the health consequences of using inhalants. The drug can easily be introduced in the gay community through sexual partners without understanding the risks involved in using poppers.
It is necessary for there to be more education about the dangers of inhaling solvents instead of alkyl nitrate poppers. Addiction specialists often have little familiarity with the mechanism of these new poppers and tend to assume that they are more or less similar to other inhalants.
As a result of this lack of familiarity, many physicians may not realize that huffing solvents represents a much greater risk than traditional poppers. It is important for addiction specialists and clinicians, especially those working in the gay community to familiarize themselves with the new poppers and recognize signs and symptoms associated with the use of poppers. Issues like cognitive impairment or neuropathy can be signs that the patient has been inhaling the new form of poppers.
There is much more research to be done on the impact of this new popper trend and how prevalent it has become in the gay community. It is yet unknown exactly how popular this trend has become in the past few years and how it has affected the health of new users.
The public must be more educated about poppers and what types are the most dangerous to use. Users also must be more aware of the risks of addiction and how a dependency on this drug could affect them in the future.