Ask Dr. Shulgin Online

ARCHIVE:  August 2, 2002


Dear Dr. Shulgin:

My question is in regard to certain legal inhalants known as "poppers", "rush", "HeadCleaner", "Locker Room", etc... I have recently learned that these are chemically related to Amyl Nitrate, which was once used for heart problems as well as for getting high. I would like to know if these newer similar substances are any more hazardous than Amyl Nitrate, and if so, what are the dangers? How do they work in the body/brain?

-- XBJ


Dear XBJ:

The term "Poppers" has been used for many years as a popular catch-all name for the several alkyl esters of nitrous acid. The alkyl term usually includes the groups butyl, isobutyl, amyl, and isoamyl, and more recently, cyclohexyl. The acid that they are allied with is always nitrous acid, never nitric acid. Nitrite is always correct, and nitrate is never correct. When you see the term "Amyl Nitrate," applied to poppers, the author is either careless or misinformed.

In the pharmaceutical area, the name Nitramyl has been used to refer to both the amyl and the isoamylnitrite, and the names Aspirol and Vaporol apply specifically to the isoamyl nitrite isomer. Their medical use is for the production of vasodilation, an immediate relief for heart patients and victims of cyanide poisoning.

In the pharmacological area, these drugs are widely used as inhalers for their euphoric effects. The light-headedness and drop of blood pressure have been exploited as augmentations of the user's sexual capabilities. Light-headedness equals intoxication. Vasodilation allows easy erection. The ampules are available without prescription, and usually easily found in the gay communities of the city.

-- Dr. Shulgin

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