Regulator issues alarming safety warning about poppers


Poppers amyl nitrite therapeutic goods administration tga
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US Food and Drugs Administration has issued a warning to consumers about poppers, citing an increase in hospitalisations and deaths from the popular sex aid.

“The FDA is advising consumers not to purchase or use nitrite ‘poppers‘,” the FDA said in a recent statement.

“They can result in serious adverse health effects, including death.

“These products are marketed as nail polish removers but are being ingested or inhaled for recreational use.

“The FDA has observed an increase in reports of deaths and hospitalizations with issues such as severe headaches, dizziness, increase in body temperature, difficulty breathing, extreme drops in blood pressure, blood oxygen issues (methemoglobinemia), and brain death after ingestion or inhalation of nitrite ‘poppers.’

“‘Poppers’ are often marketed as nail polish removers or cleaning products and are packaged in small bottles, ranging from 10 to 40 mL.

“They appear similar to energy shots, with brand names including Jungle Juice, Extreme Formula, HardWare, Quick Silver, and Super RUSH.”

Many in the queer community inhale poppers recreationally during anal sex.

When inhaled, poppers relaxes muscles in the body and dilates the blood vessels. This can make bottoming more comfortable and produce a brief euphoric head rush.

The FDA stopped short of a ban, but said it would “track reports of adverse events” from poppers and “take appropriate actions to protect the public health.”

In the statement, the FDA didn’t provide any other specific information about the deaths attributed to poppers.

But users must never ingest or swallow the liquid in poppers, as this can be fatal.

Users must also never combine them with erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra or Cialis.

The drop in blood pressure they cause can put users at risk of fainting, stroke, heart attack and death.

Australian regulator bans harmful ingredient in poppers

Poppers contain one of a group of chemicals named “alkyl nitrites” that give them their effects.

The group includes the most well-known, amyl nitrite, as well as cyclohexyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, pentyl nitrite and others.

In a 2017 study, just under a third of gay and bi men in Australia reported using poppers in the previous six months.

In 2018, Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration announced it would criminalise poppers in Australia.

However after LGBTIQ health advocates explained the therapeutic uses, the TGA ultimately backtracked.

Instead, the TGA banned just one of the chemicals, isopropyl nitrite.

Researchers found the isopropyl nitrite poppers were causing problems including eye damage, vision loss and macular degeneration.

But currently, poppers are largely unregulated. While brands usually list ingredients on the label, users can have trouble knowing for certain what’s in them.

In 2019, the TGA tested eight brands of poppers from Australian adult stores and found they all contained isobutyl nitrite.

The TGA also tested ten poppers obtained from overseas websites. Five of those samples contained the now-banned isopropyl nitrite.

The remaining five were found to contain amyl nitrite, the ingredient traditionally associated with poppers.

TGA approves amyl for sale in Australian pharmacies

In 2019, the TGA made the decision to approve amyl nitrite for over-the-counter purchase at pharmacies.

As a result, Australians could eventually buy poppers containing amyl nitrite for therapeutic use – including sex – at pharmacies in the coming years.

However, a manufacturer must first apply to have their product approved for sale by the TGA.

That’s a lengthy and costly process, and currently no manufacturers have done so in Australia.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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