Amyl nitrite is classified as an inhalant. It is a vasodilator which means it dilates blood vessels. It is one of the nitrite class of drugs. Others include butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite and the nitrates such as nitro-glycerine.
Discovered in 1857, amyl nitrite was used for a variety of medical applications before becoming popular for recreational use in the 1950/60s. More recently amyl nitrite has found its way into clubs and dance parties where they are often used in conjunction with other ‘party drugs’ such as speed and ecstasy.
Amyl nitrite is also known as ‘poppers’. Butyl and isobutyl nitrites have been sold under many names including ‘rush’, ‘climax’, ‘ram’, ‘thrust’ and ‘heart-on’ and ‘jungle juice aroma.
It is a clear, yellow, highly volatile and inflammable liquid. The liquid smells sweet and fruity when fresh but like ‘sweaty socks’ when stale. The nitrites usually come as a liquid, contained in small bottles. Clinically, amyl nitrite is only used when very rapid absorption through inhalation is necessary for some cardiac medical procedures. It is also used to treat cyanide poisoning. Recreational users inhale the fumes from the bottle in ‘snorts’. The effects are felt within 30 seconds of inhalation and last for two to three minutes.
Short-term effects may include:
Longer term effects
Long term effects include:
There are no recorded sudden deaths from inhaling nitrites. While the possibility of death or serious injury from inhaling is fairly remote, there is a major toxicity problem with nitrites if they are swallowed rather than inhaled. When they are eaten, nitrites can cause major medical problems by interfering with the ability of the blood to transport oxygen. Oral consumption of nitrites has led to death in some circumstances.
Combining amyl and Viagra can cause loss of consciousness, and in some circumstances death. It is also believed that regular use of the drug could reduce the effectiveness of HIV drugs.
Amyl nitrite is highly flammable.
Using amyl nitrite or any other inhalants during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, seizures and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
In Australia it is illegal to sell, supply or inhale products containing any of the five following nitrites: amyl, iso-amyl, butyl and octyl - unless it is under specifically approved circumstances such as a prescription from a medical practitioner, pharmacist supply or distribution by a licence holder.
It is not safe to drive while using amyl nitrite or any other inhalants, given their effects on vision and coordination.
Reference: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre ‘AMYL NITRITE’ fact sheet http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/NDARCWeb.nsf/page/Fact%20Sheets