What is amyl nitrite?
Amyl nitrite is a depressant which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and body. Classified as an inhalant, it belongs to a class of drugs known as nitrates, which also includes butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrate and nitroglycerine. Amyl nitrite is a vasodilator. Vasodilators are medicines that cause the blood vessels in the body to dilate and the involuntary smooth muscles to relax.
Poppers, liquid gold, rush, purple haze and buzz.
How is it used?
Amyl nitrite is used medically in some cardiac procedures, including treatment for cyanide poisoning, as well as for angina. Recreationally, it is used to enhance sexual experience or to experience a general sense of pleasure. The effects are felt within 30 seconds of taking the drug, and last for around 2-3 minutes.
What does it look like?
Amyl nitrite is an extremely flammable and highly volatile oil, that is clear in colour and is commonly inhaled from a small glass bottle. It typically has a distinct smell similar to dirty socks. Historically, amyl nitrite has been primarily used among the gay community. This trend is still common; however, it has also become a common ‘party drug’ that is used more widely.
Effects of amyl nitrite
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries risk. Amyl nitrite will affect everyone differently, based on:
• Size, weight and health
• Whether the person is used to taking it
• Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
• The amount taken
• The strength of the drug
• Amount of fresh air breathed while inhaling
• Amount of physical activity before and after inhaling
The effects of amyl nitrate include:
• Initial ‘rush’ of euphoria
• Flushing of the face
• Increased heart rate
• Warming sensations
• Feelings of excitement
• Relaxation of involuntary muscles, especially the anal and vaginal sphincter
• Psychological effects include increased sensual awareness, visual distortions, lowered inhibitions and impaired judgement
• Some people may experience nose bleeds, respiratory problems or nausea after inhaling amyl nitrite. 4,5 Headaches are common once the ‘high’ passes.
The level of harm from the long-term use of amyl nitrite is generally low, however some of the long-term effects can range from mild allergic reactions to potentially life threatening methaeglobinaemia – a blood disorder that can lead to inadequate oxygen supply to body tissue. Frequent use can also cause a rash to form around the mouth, nose and eyes, or any skin that regularly comes into contact with the vapour. This can look like a skin irritation. Direct fluid contact with skin can cause burns and should be avoided.
People who are anaemic, pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have increased pressure within the skull (head injury or brain haemorrhage) should avoid using amyl nitrite as this can increase the risk of harmful effects. There is also a risk of fluid pressure build-up within the eye, and for people who have underlying glaucoma, this risk is further increased.
Using amyl nitrite with other drugs
The effects of using amyl nitrite with other drugs – including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could include:
• Amyl nitrite + Viagra or other erectile dysfunction medications:
a high risk that the person will lose consciousness due to a sudden and extreme drop in blood pressure. This may require immediate medical attention.
• Amyl nitrite + Amphetamine: increased strain on the heart and places the body under excess stress.