Alkyl Nitrites Abuse – It is a well-known fact that inhaling solvents or propellants to get high can result in serious health complications. Although this is not a new trend, by any means, certain products are being sold as “poppers.” These are chemicals known as alkyl nitrites, which generate a vapor that can be inhaled.
Alkyl nitrites are chemical compounds that have been classified together based on their molecular structure. Formally, they are alkyl esters of nitrous acid. Alkyl nitrites were originally intended for some medical applications, such as relief from chest pain and other symptoms related to heart disease.
Although not commonly used for heart problems today, amyl nitrite is still used for the treatment of cyanide poisoning. However, when referred to as “poppers,” alkyl nitrites are considered to be recreational drugs only.
What Are Poppers?
Poppers are sold in small bottles and include brand names such as “Ram” and “Thrust.” Popper chemicals dilate blood vessels, resulting in a drop in blood pressure accompanied by a rush of warm feelings and dizziness. At the same time, however, a heart that is exposed to poppers will accelerate.
Poppers are typically sniffed from the bottle. However, some prefer to dip a cigarette into the bottle and then inhale the chemicals instead. Effects are nearly immediate, but don’t last for very long and subside after just a few minutes.
Today, poppers are most often used to enhance sex. The vasodilatory properties of alkyl nitrites open blood vessels, causing blood pressure to decrease and producing feelings of relaxation. Another reason people use these drugs during sex is to increase sensation and intensify climax.
Why Are Poppers Used?
Although some reasons for using poppers make sense, they do not explain why a person would use such a harmful substance to increase sexual gratification. One answer may be related to this: several studies have examined this topic and found a strong association between having sex during drug intoxication and sex addiction. Of note, this correlation is more significant among gay men, who tend to experience sex addiction at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts.
Moreover, a person may be using poppers in part because they have a sex addiction. Fortunately, like other process addictions, sex addiction can be treated and managed for those who seek help.
Sex addiction may not be the only reason why someone abuses poppers, however. They could be using them to self-medicate or deal with one of the following mental health problems:
- Mood disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Anxiety disorders such as social phobia
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
It’s also not uncommon for the above disorders to co-exist with sex addiction. Regardless of the reason, help is available.
Are Alkyl Nitrites Addictive?
Poppers are not considered to be chemically addictive in the same way that some other drugs are. Nonetheless, because these chemicals have intoxicating effects and are often used to intensify sexual pleasure, they can become habit-forming.
Those who use them due to a mental health condition may be more inclined to abuse them more often. This behavior can increase the risk of harmful effects can psychological addiction.
Harmful Chemicals in Poppers
Poppers can include different forms of alkyl nitrites. Amyl nitrite, a compound originally used to treat angina, was the first to receive widespread recreational use in the 1960s. Other types of alkyl nitrites later appeared following the introduction of more restrictions regarding the use of amyl nitrite.
Among these newer chemicals are butyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite. Each of these chemicals can be extremely harmful and even lethal. They each also have their own collection of frightening potential risks.
Amyl nitrate has been linked to memory loss, delirium, hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and death. If used long-term, amyl nitrate can result in the following:
- Brain damage
- Heart disease
- Liver and kidney failure
- Irreversible hearing loss
- Slurred speech
Amyl nitrite (not to be confused with amyl nitrate) use can lead to fatal asphyxiation in the short-term. It can also cause heart and blood vessel problems when used long-term.
Butyl nitrite, when used for a prolonged period, can also result in severe damage to several parts of the body. These include the brain, heart, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and muscles. Its immediate effects can cause sudden death.
Isobutyl nitrite was found in a 2016 study to induce neurotoxicity in mice, causing impaired motor coordination and memory and learning functions.
Isopropyl nitrite has been found to induce visual disturbances, blurry vision, blind spots, and retinal damage, results that could possibly be permanent.
Side Effects of Alkyl Nitrites
Poppers can produce a range of effects that may be desirable, harmful, or both. These effects include the following:
- A brief, rush-like “high”
- Enhanced sexual experiences
- Chemical burns
- Rash on nose and mouth
- Nose and throat irritation
- Feelings of sickness
- Faintness and weakness
- Impaired coordination
- Death (if swallowed)
The chemicals in poppers can burn the mouth and throat, cause nausea and vomiting and lethal poisoning. Any person who consumes poppers orally should seek emergency medical help immediately. Using poppers is particularly dangerous for people with heart problems, as death has been known to occur.
The Hazards of Alkyl Nitrites
The use of alkyl nitrites is very dangerous and can result in the following:
- Perilously low blood pressure
- Damage to red blood cells
- Oxygen deprivation to organs
- Cerebral hypoxia
- Loss of conscious
- Inhalation of vomit
- Risky sexual behavior and STDs
- Skin burns
- Extreme disorientation
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- Temporary/permanent vision loss
- Death from oral consumption
Combining poppers with alcohol can increase the risk of reduced oxygen supply to vital organs and result in unconsciousness and death. Also, poppers are highly flammable, and there have been many reports of people who accidentally burned themselves or others.
One of the most terrifying potential results of using poppers is brain damage. Research has found that inhalants like poppers can damage at least two vital regions of the brain—the cerebellum and cerebral cortex. The result of this damage may include personality changes, memory loss, hallucinations, impaired coordination, and slurred speech.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
If you or a loved one is abusing poppers for any reason, you are urged to seek help as soon as possible. Regardless of whether this abuse occurs due to sex addiction or other mental illness, we can help! Through dual diagnosis treatment, we can address the symptoms of both drug abuse and mental illness simultaneously, allowing people to heal emotionally as well as physically.
Harmony Recovery Center offers integrated treatment for drug addiction and mental health conditions. Our services include, but are not limited to, psychotherapy, individual and family counseling, group support, and aftercare planning.
We are dedicated to ensuring that our clients receive all the tools and support they need to be successful. We help those who need it most break free from the cycle of drug abuse and begin to foster healthy, fulfilling lives.
Contact us as soon as possible if you or someone you love is abusing drugs or alcohol. Our caring, highly-skilled addiction specialists are waiting for your call to discuss treatment options and get you enrolled in a comprehensive addiction program today!