Nitrite inhalants or Poppers are a class of recreational drugs consisting of alkyl and cycloalkyl nitrites such as amyl nitrite (pentyl nitrite in IUPAC nomenclature), cyclohexyl nitrite and Butyl nitrite. Their vapours are inhaled, inducing a period of intense euphoria and often exploited in the enhancement of sexual experiences. The name derives from the small, mesh-covered, sealed glass capsules that amyl nitrite comes in. These are popped or snapped in order to release the vapors. The name snappers is sometimes used.
Cyclohexyl nitrite is found in so-called 'room deodorizers', despite the malodorous nature of this compound. Butyl nitrite is often sold in small bottles that, like amyl nitrite capsules, are referred to as poppers. Nitrites are available in adult bookstores and shops and over the Internet. In contrast to the vast majority of inhalants, alkyl nitrites are encumbered by a variety of legal restrictions, though the status of cyclohexyl nitrite — technically not a member of the class of alkyl nitrites encompassed by the law — remains in question in the United States, as a result of the controversial Federal Analog Act.
Poppers are most commonly used by gay men. The drugs are less common today than before having been classified as prescription only illegal in many places, but are generally used in an attempt to prolong sexual stamina. The existence of poppers became more widely known to the layman when they appeared in Radley Metzger's cult classic film Score (1972). In the film, a bisexual woman glides them under the nose of a heterosexual woman in an attempt to loosen her up for seduction.
Nitrite users — who tend to be adults rather than adolescents who are the typical users of other inhalants — seek to enhance the sexual experience. Inhaled nitrites dilate blood vessels, increase heart rate, and produce a sensation of heat and excitement that can last for several minutes. Nitrites also loosen the muscles around the anus, allowing easier penetration and enhanced sensation. In addition, they greatly enhance and enlong orgasms.
They are also inhaled by users of other recreational drugs to enhance the effects, for example Ecstasy, the effects of which combine with those of Nitrites to produce an extremely intense rush of euphoria and physical pleasure. Nitrites are widely used in rave culture.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, use of these drugs is associated with unsafe sexual practices that greatly increase the risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Clinically used as a vasodilator in order to treat angina, and as part of the treatment regimen for cyanide poisoning, there are a range of dangers unique to the incautious use of nitries. The induction of symptomatic methemoglobinemia raises serious questions regarding their safety in the absence of expert supervision. Use together with Viagra can cause heart failure. Use during pregnancy has been implicated in the characteristic blue baby syndrome, as the drugs readily cross the placenta. An early, apparently causal association between nitrite abuse and Kaposi's sarcoma has not been borne out through recent research, though on-going controversy from such investigators as Peter Duesberg remains.