What are Poppers? All your questions answered

What are Poppers? All your questions answered

What-arePOPPERS-What are Poppers?

I found this article some time ago and I don’t think I need to reinvent the wheel. So thanks to Jack T for his article.


Poppers? What are poppers? By Jack T.  |  Posted 26 July 2012

Rush Poppers, as well as its cousin, Rush Ultra Strong (BUY NOW), have long been top sellers worldwide.

The original Rush line has always contained pure isobutyl nitrite.

Poppers is a street term, or a slang, for any liquid that belongs to the alkyl nitrite family and is used recreationally to intensify sexual pleasure, or—in club culture—to enhance the perception of sound and light.

They are administered by inhaling the content from a small bottle (10-30ml) that contains the liquid, which is typically yellowish in color and has a distinctive, fruity, sweetish aroma (although this varies depending on the particular nitrite used.)

They are legal and are generally safe to use (though be sure to check the safety page of this guide if you are new to poppers), and they are not addictive at all – not physically addictive, anyway; the possibility of developing a mental dependency and a craving for the pleasurable effects is another matter 😉

Nowadays, poppers are typically sold as liquid incense, room odorizer, leather cleaner or even nail polish remover (yes, apart from their recreational use as inhalants, alkyl nitrites can reliably perform all of the listed functions 🙂

A gay high?

Poppers are still seen by many as a “gay drug”, but this is a very outdated view.

Poppers have long been popular with the male gay community – but their appeal does not stop there.

Yes, it is true that the gay subculture of the 1970s did embrace the bright, eye-catching bottles labeled Rush, Locker Room, Manscent, Ram or Hardware.

Yes, it is true that poppers manufacturers of the era invested heavily in advertising in gay publications. There even was a gay-targeted cartoon strip named “Poppers” (by Jerry Mills) which told the adventures of Billy, a West Hollywood muscleboy, and his sidekick Yves.

But as early as 1978, the Pittsburg Post-Gazette quoted “a brash young street vendor” in New York—yes, poppers were sold by street vendors back then!—who was apparently “doing brisk business at 52nd and Madison” and who described his clientele as follows —

Business people, gays, straights, Brooks Brothers suits, off-duty cops, the Gucci crowd.”

Why so, you might wonder. What is the appeal of a substance that, some would say, smells like a sweaty pair of socks?

To answer that question, let me quote from a study titled Psychosexual Aspects of the Volatile Nitrites, published in 1982 by an American psychiatrist Thomas P. Lowry, M.D. —

The inhalable nitrites may be the nearest thing to a true aphrodisiac. In foreplay, the nitrites have a disinhibiting effect, enabling the user to experience total skin-surface sensuality. When inhaled shortly before orgasm, the user may experience a sense of exhilaration and acceleration, a freeing of inhibition, and perception of orgasm as prolonged, intense and exalted.”

The formulas

Back in the seventies and eighties, as Dr Lowry noted in the study quoted above, there were just two compounds in widespread use as poppers: amyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite.

Jungle Juice Platinum Poppers

Jungle Juice, and its more potent sibling, Jungle Juice Platinum (pictured) have always contained pure amyl nitrite – but beware of imitations.

Numerous other formulas have been developed since; the term “poppers” may nowadays also refer to cyclohexyl nitrite, isopentyl nitrite or isoamyl nitrite.

The last three—cycloxehyl, isopentyl and isoamyl—are currently being promoted as “new formulas”, “USA-safe formulas”, “EU formulas” or similar – with the inevitable marketing hype associated: “Pure! Powerful! Improved!”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The so-called new formulas are not purer or better than the originals; they are merely the result of a never-ending cat and mouse game that poppers manufactures have to play with the regulators who hate to see anything even mildly mind-altering on the market:

As they ban one compound, another one is devised with (hopefully) similar effects – and the business carries on as usual. (In time, of course, the “new” stuff will get banned as well… and another formula will be developed… and so on.)

Of the three “new” formulas currently promoted, isoamyl is just about okay, in my opinion. Cyclohexyl and isopentyl, on the other hand, are pretty rough chemicals that will give you a headache right after the first sniff. I avoid them if I can help it.

The Just Jungle Juice website has tracked since 2006 —

The Jungle monkeys that cook up cyclo-headache-hexyl and pass it on as the real juice d’amyl”

— as well as recommending reliable retailers who still stock genuine amyl and isobutyl. (Despite widespread regulatory pressures, original formula amyl and isobutyl can still be manufactured in a handful of countries.)

Why ‘poppers’?

The term “popper” has many meanings. In particular, it is anything that makes a popping sound — but the name is also used to refer to a utensil for popping corn, a fishing lure, a spicy Mexican dish, a type of cupcake…

You would have figured out by now that none of the above, of course, is the poppers we are talking about on this website 😉 But if you are still not with us, here is one no-nonsense—if somewhat crude—definition, courtesy one Brian Moylan of Gawker.com —

For those who still don’t know, poppers are an inhalant that is rather easy to come by in most adult book stores or leather shops. It’s amyl nitrite and it’s sold as ‘room odorizer’ or ‘video head cleaner’ or some other preposterous bullsh*t like that. What it does is loosen up all the involuntary muscles (like in the throat, vagina and anus) so it’s so much easier to get large objects pushed into them.”

I have included Mr Moylan’s definition mostly for its comical value; there are some truths there but also quite a few untruths:

First of all, hardly any bookstore anywhere in the world stocks poppers these days – not openly, anyway. Secondly, most poppers available nowadays are not the good old amyl. Lastly, poppers do not just “loosen up all the involuntary muscles”, as Mr Moylan puts it – yes, they definitely do that, but they do a lot more than that! They affect one’s mind, too, bringing out this raw, animal-like sexuality in just about anyone who takes a sniff… That is the main appeal.

But why “poppers”?

Originally, amyl nitrite poppers came in small glass capsules, which you had to snap to release the liquid’s aroma. The glass vials (commonly called pearls back then) made a distinctive popping sound when crushed – hence the name “poppers”.

These days poppers come in 10-30ml bottles, and they don’t pop anymore. But the name stuck.

How do poppers work?

Physically, alkyl nitrites act as vasodilator – a substance that dilates blood vessels. As a result, more blood enters the brain and so the user experiences an effect typically described as a “head rush”.

Jacked Poppers

Rumor has it Jacked is named after the brand creator’s dog Jack. Contains fast-acting isobutyl. Recommended.

Poppers also relax smooth muscles throughout the body, which makes penetrative sex easier.

Mentally, poppers intensify current positive emotions, create a sense of well-being and euphoria, decrease any inhibitions and increase the user’s sex drive.

Although the functioning of poppers on a physical level has been reliably described and understood by medical science (amyl nitrite was originally a medicine for angina pectoris – heart pains associated with a heart attack), it has not yet been explained how or why poppers affect one’s mental state in the way they do.

The lack of scientific understanding has never bothered me though 🙂 and neither should it bother you. Enjoy!

Poppers are safe. But…

By Jack T.  |  Posted 27 July 2012

Comments (115)

There are online stores out there that sell the two together, often on the same page, without any warning whatsoever. I find that kind of haphazard attitude infuriating. Seriously: the two do not mix well. In extreme cases, the mix may prove incompatible with life.

Most of the substances sold as poppers (amyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite or isopentyl nitrite) are sold as “liquid incense” or “leather cleaner” nowadays. Although these descriptions are technically correct (yes, amyl will clean your leather belt just fine), this is not what most people buy poppers for.

My point is, if you are going to “do” poppers recreationally, you might as well stay safe – so do read on before taking a pop.

The risks

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that inhaling poppers will cause a short-lived but fairly sharp drop in your blood pressure. Consequently, you should never use poppers with any other substance that will do the same – especially not together with sildenafil, the active ingredient found in drugs for erectile dysfunction.

It also goes without saying you should not use poppers if you, for whatever medical reason, suffer from a low blood pressure.

Poppers also increase your heart rate (hence the head rush effect as more blood is pumped into the brain), so you are best advised to stay safe and give the amyl a miss if you suffer from any cardiovascular condition or irregularities.

Safety record

Other than the above, poppers are about as safe as a substance can get. A ranking study of recreational drugs for harmfulness, ordered by the British government and reported by The Independent newspaper in 2006, concluded that—

Poppers pose little harm to individuals or to society when compared to other recreational drugs.”

According to a study published in The Lancet a year later (2007), poppers ranked 19th out of 20 for dependency risk and “physical harm” (alcohol came 10th and marijuana 11th).

Government advice aside, there are some things you should definitely not do with poppers. It’s all common sense, but let’s list the potential hazards anyway—

Not for human consumption. You will find this warning on any and all bottles of amyl. To put it plainly, if you drink poppers, you may die. So don’t.

Flammable. Poppers and fire do not mix. Watch that cigarette.

Skin irritant. Poppers may irritate your skin if you spill it over yourself accidentally. If you do, wash with plenty of water as soon as possible. Avoid contact with eyes – the damage could prove irreversible.

Poppers are not physically addictive because nitrites leave the body quickly, well before there is any chance of developing a dependency – so you can indulge pretty much as often as you like. That said, if you overdo it, you might experience—


Bleeding nose.


If any of that happens, open a window wide and take a deep breath. The side effects rarely last more than five minutes.

The last thing to note is that poppers do impair your judgment. Euphoria is the word, and you may well end up doing stuff you wouldn’t otherwise do—including risky sex—so do yourself a favor and slap on that rubber before you take the first sniff.

I have set up a discussion about responsible, safe enjoyment of poppers. Please join in if you have anything to warn others against. Perhaps you overdid it once, perhaps you indulged in a wrong situation… What would you advise others never to do with poppers, or when “on” poppers?

» View posts (115)

Effects of poppers explained

By Jack T.  |  Posted 26 July 2012
Comments (76)

Poppers have been around a lot longer than you might think. Partygoers used to pop as early as in the 1920s – they just called the stuff ‘amyl’ back then, not poppers yet.

Poppers affect the user on two levels: physical and mental. In tandem, the effects on the two separate planes can—and do—create something of an exhilarating experience.


The physical effects of what we now call “poppers” have been well known, understood and documented since the early 1900s (amyl nitrite, the original “popper” was discovered over fifty years earlier, in 1844).

All poppers—that is compounds belonging to the alkyl nitrite family—increase the user’s heart rate and dilate blood vessels, thus promoting a freer, faster flow of blood throughout the body, including to the brain.

This results in —

  • The relaxation of involuntary, soft muscle tissues (including vagina and anus)
  • Increased sensitivity to touch and other physical stimulations
  • A feeling of pleasant warmth throughout the body
  • A feeling of head “rush” and lightheadedness as a larger-than-usual amount of oxygen-bearing blood enters the brain.

Mental effects

To this day, medical science has not investigated nor explained psychoactive effects of poppers, primarily because of lack of research interest in the area. (The lack of interest is likely due to the fact that the recreational use of nitrites does not create any troublesome societal issues—unlike the abuse of many other substances—because nitrites are not physically addictive and are generally safe to use.)

Brain’s dopamine pathways. Poppers (alkyl nitrites) are thought to act on opiod receptors, which then release the neurotransmitter dopamine (DA), which in turn stimulates the pleasure center of the brain.

One fairly recent neurological study (by RL Balster, 1998) did attempt to explain the effect on the brain, only to conclude that “conclusions are difficult to draw” – although it noted that “some evidence” exists that alkyl nitrites may bind to opioid neuro-receptors in the brain.

Another (anecdotal) opinion is that the inhalation of poppers causes a mild, short-lived oxygen overdose, since poppers cause oxygen-bearing blood to rush to the brain with a greater speed and in a larger quantity than normally. I have not, however, been able to locate any independent study that gives any credence to this view.

Based on my subjective experiences, I believe Dr Balster’s suggestion (that poppers bind to brain’s opiod receptors) is closer to the truth. Substances that bind to these receptors have the ability to —

  • Stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain (signal “reward“)
  • Produce a strong sense of euphoria, followed by relaxation and contentment
  • Block pain signals produced by the brain (…think penetrative sex)

— and poppers do all that.

But there is more. For many decades, users have reported that poppers —

  • Help you lose any inhibitions, make you act in a more relaxed way
  • Intensify current emotions and experience (…think foreplay and beyond)
  • Subjectively prolong the time, or even make time “stand still” for a while (…think orgasm)
  • Intensify the perception of light and sound (…think the dance floor)
  • Make your environment and everything within it (including you!) appear brighter, happier, bolder – more substantial even (…think penis)

Yes, poppers are all about intensity. They will intensify your environment, and any activity currently performed – be it a sexual act, a night out or even skydiving (yup, some skydivers do take a sniff for to get that extra thrill out of the experience).

Gay drug? Sex drug?
Or an all-purpose high?

It depends on who you ask.

I have already tried to explain—on the “What are poppers?” page—that poppers are far from being the exclusive domain of homosexuals.

Many people still hold this opinion though, because for decades now, most researchers and writers have focused on one particular effect of aromas only. The following quote is from Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality; (Labataille, 1975) —

Aromas enable the passive partner in anal intercourse to relax the anal musculature and thereby facilitate the introduction of the penis.”

Thank you, Mr Labataille, for your diligent research and the description of the mechanics of the matter 🙂

But even many gay commentators have attempted to claim the little bottle for themselves and their own. Hank Wilson, a gay activist and a manager of a notorious San Francisco hotel had the following to say (in 1993) —

They relax your sphincter muscle, okay? If you’re having casual sex, in a park or a bathroom or in a tearoom, wherever, and it’s quick, it’s casual? You don’t generally have as much foreplay, you’re more orgasmic oriented, as opposed to pleasuring someone. You see what I’m saying. Poppers facilitate quick anal intercourse.”

Although none of the above quotes is factually incorrect, they do not tell the whole story. The statements focus solely on poppers’ ability to relax involuntary muscles and decrease the perception of pain – which in turn promotes the opinion that bottom fun is the only thing poppers are good for.

It certainly is true that a lot of bottles ultimately end up in people’s bedrooms—gay and straight—but anal penetration isn’t always involved.

Dr John Sturrock, a Boston psychiatrist, explains —

It is very much a recreational sex drug. People typically use it just before orgasm, because it subjectively prolongs the time and increases the intensity”

That, again, doesn’t tell the whole story – poppers also increase lust, to the point of bringing about a raw, animal-like sexuality. They decrease any inhibitions the user may have had before taking a sniff. They increase sensitivity to touch all over the body. They deliver a sense of exhilaration, acceleration and a total focus on the current moment in time, to a point of excluding outside distractions. In short, poppers intensify the experience – both on a physical and mental level. Sometimes they even fill the mind with changing patterns of color and shape, often containing symbolic representations of the sexual act taking place.

Simon Sheppard, the author of Hotter Than Hell, Kinkorama, Sex Parties 101 and other books, sums it up well —

This product can make mediocre sex good, and good sex spectacular. Instead of being ‘me having sex’, I become sex itself, and the experience can be overwhelming.”

But aromas have their uses outside of the bedroom, too. (And no, I don’t mean any casual al fresco encounters now 🙂 In a paper titled Amyl Nitrite and the EEG: A Pilot Study (published in 1979), Thomas P. Lowry, M.D. noted —

Amyl nitrite has been used since at least 1920 as a psychedelic drug.”

Will a good bottle of poppers brighten up your night out? You bet! Widespread use of poppers amongst clubbers started with the 1970s disco era.

Partygoers used to snap ampules of amyl nitrite for recreational purposes for almost a century now – but it wasn’t until the seventies when poppers use really took off on the disco scene of the time.

By the eighties, the cheap, effective and fast-acting substance found its firm place on the dance floor. Its popularity increased even further in the clubs, parties, and raves of the nineties. The trend continues to this day.

In a club setting, poppers intensify the audio experience of loud, fast-paced music, as well as visual experience of the effects produced by the club’s light system.

Just as in a sexual context, clubbers also benefit from the loss of inhibitions, which makes both dancing and socializing a more satisfying experience. The relaxation and contentment that poppers bring about also push peripheral thoughts of day-to-day issues to the side, allowing the user to fully immerse himself in and enjoy the immediate present.

Yes, it is the capability of poppers to instantly exalt any current moment in time, any current experience—in any given setting—that makes the substance so desirable.

That said, I wouldn’t recommend taking a rollercoaster ride (or similar) with an open bottle in hand. When spilled on your skin, poppers will burn you unless washed away immediately. You have been warned.

How to. How fast. How long.
And how often.

Poppers are mostly administered by inhaling the vapors directly from an open bottle. One or two sniffs are enough to deliver the desired effect.

Ruth Bayer takes a sniff. As one of her artistic projects, Ms Bayer has photgraphed people on poppers, trying to—in her own words—”capture the effect it has on the user”.

The effect is immediate, but only lasts about a minute or two, which is why you can never overdose on poppers, and which is why poppers are not physically addictive – alkyl nitrites leave the body quickly.

When used to enhance a sexual experience, most people will take about three to four “doses” during the act – though this of course depends on the actual length of the act and your own preference. Some people only reach for the bottle once, just before climax.

Clubbers who use poppers to enhance their night out usually take a sniff every time before hitting the dance floor. A small bottle will easily last all night even when shared amongst a group.

I personally use poppers only once (rarely twice) a week. Although nitrites are safe and not addictive, anecdotal evidence suggests that excessive use can create a tolerance to the effects of the substance – meaning you might end up needing ever larger and more frequent doses. Remember that poppers are thought to act on your brain’s dopamine (pleasure) pathways. If you use poppers several times a day, your body will likely attempt to self-regulate the (unnatural) over-stimulation.
I have set up a discussion about the effects of poppers. Read what other people have had to say, or join in with your opinion!



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