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Street names

Poppers, AMYLS, KIX, LIQUID GOLD, RAM, ROCK HARD, THRUST, TNT, various brand names.


  • A stimulant chemically related to nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Part of a group of chemicals called alkyl nitrites. Specific alkyl nitrites include butyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite and amyl nitrite. They dilate the blood vessels and allow more blood to get to the heart.
  • Clear, yellow, volatile and inflammable liquid with a sweet smell when fresh and smelling of old socks when stale. Usually supplied in small bottles with screw tops. Sniffed up the nose or inhaled via mouth.
  • Can enhanced sexual experiences.


Paraphernalia / what to look out for

  • Small brown bottles. Sometimes, perhaps to try and avoid the legislation that attempts to limit the sale of poppers, manufacturers label the product "room odoriser". Most people would not appreciate the smell of poppers in their living room.

Possible short-term indicators

  • Causes the wall of blood vessels to relax which lowers blood pressure making the face flushed as blood rushes to the head.
  • Muscles relax, including the anal sphincter – may make it easier for some people to have anal sex by helping to relax the anal sphincter muscles.
  • Immediate effects last for a few minutes.
  • May make an orgasm feel like it lasts longer; may make an erection feel stronger (although some men have trouble getting an erection after sniffing poppers).
  • Have been linked to lowering inhibitions, leading to increased possibility of unsafe sex.
  • If split on the nostrils whilst inhaling, the nostrils may become inflamed (or burnt), leading to very dry skin.

Possible longer-term indicators

  • Long term or large doses can produce headaches, nausea, severe vomiting, dizziness and fainting.
  • Lowered blood pressure and a lowering of the heart rate with regular use can cause problems to anyone with an existing heart condition.
  • Amyl nitrites cause an increase in eye pressure and may be harmful to people with glaucoma.

Harm reduction

  • Remember safer sex – poppers may affect judgement during sex.
  • Safer sex activists have said of poppers "If you are going to use poppers, put a condom on before you sniff."
  • Anybody who suffers from circulatory problems or from low blood pressure should be particularly wary of this substance.
  • Using poppers can be a serious health risk for those with heart trouble, breathing problems, or anaemia and glaucoma. Always wash off any amyl that spills on your skin and never drink the stuff – it is highly poisonous.
  • It’s very dangerous to take poppers with viagra or if you’re on medication to reduce your blood pressure as it can cause it to drop so low it is dangerous.
  • Poppers may suppress the immune system.
  • They’re highly flammable, so smokers should be extra careful.

Legal status

Amyl nitrite is very rarely used in medicine but is controlled under the Medicines Act 1968. Possession is not illegal but supply can be an offence.
Legally, they are only allowed to be supplied by a pharmacist. There have been cases where the Medicines Act was used to fine shops for selling them, but they’re still sold as Room Aromas or Deodorisers in sex shops and some clubs.