Alkyl Nitrites (Poppers, Amyl Nitrite)

Possession of Illegal Drugs, New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys

Drug Information About Alkyl Nitrites

Drug names: Amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite
Street names: Poppers, snappers, Bolt, Rush


Alkyl nitrites are illegal in the United States through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. But the law includes an exception for commercial purposes, meaning production is allow for use other than recreational inhalation. While they have since been made illegal, they can still be found for sale online and are legal in other countries like Poland and the UK.

Illegal Use

“Poppers” are the street slang for a host of alkyl nitrites prescribed medically for heart patients but used recreationally by “popping” the capsules and inhaling the vapors that are released. Amyl nitrite is produced illegally, though most poppers are isobutyl nitrite or butyl nitrite, sold as “room deodorizer,” “leather cleaner,” or “video head cleaner.”

General Drug Information

Poppers come in capsules that are crushed and held under the nose to inhale vapors that are released from the liquid inside. They also come in small bottles of liquid, which are opened and the fumes inhaled. The effects of poppers should be felt within seconds and last about two minutes. They should be taken sitting or lying down, as the user may lose balance and awareness temporarily.

Poppers cause muscle around blood vessels to relax, causing the heart to pump more blood more quickly. This causes a large amount of oxygen-rich blood to reach the brain, producing the euphoric and light-headed “rush” sensation that makes poppers a common club drug. Poppers can also increase sexual arousal and are used heavily by the homosexual community because they relax the smooth muscle in the anus. But inhaling poppers after drinking alcohol may worsen the side effects of intoxication, low blood pressure, and even cardiovascular collapse. Using poppers after ingesting Viagra is also extremely dangerous and can cause a potentially fatal drop in blood pressure.

Side Effects of Poppers

The most common side effects of poppers are dizziness, headache, and flushing of the face. But some sensitive individuals may experience involuntary passing of urine and feces, nausea, cold sweat, feelings of excessive heart action, and partial losses of consciousness or awareness. Inhalation of large amounts of poppers may result in feelings of suffocation and muscle weakness. Overdose can lead to a lack of oxygen in the blood, giving the skin and lips a blue color, and producing the symptoms of clinical shock (restlessness, weakness, sweating, vomiting, lapses in consciousness). Nitrites can burn the skin or cause rash, and swallowing them can be fatal. Poppers pose extra risks for those with heart problems, high or low blood pressure, or a suppressed immune system.

Addiction and Problems With Long-Term Use

While poppers are not physically addictive, they can be psychologically habit forming and produce dependency. Some eventually feel that they can’t have sex unless they use poppers. Tolerance to poppers develops if used on a daily basis. This generally subsides after a short period of abstinence from the drug. Excessive use can cause irritation to the nasal cavity and burns around the nose. Poppers also suppress the immune system response for days after their use, increasing risks of infection especially from sexually transmitted diseases.