Usage, Side Effects and Cautions of Amyl Nitrite


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Amyl nitrite is a recreational drug that is inhaled. The drug belongs to the alkyl nitrate chemical class. While there are documented medical indications for amyl nitrite, there is an uptick in recreational use of the drug.

Recreational use of amyl nitrite (sometimes referred to as amyl nitrate, though this is different) became popular during the club scene of the 1970s, the disco rage of the 1980s and through the raves in the 1990s. The street names for the inhalant include: poppers, snappers, liquid gold and rush.

Amyl Nitrite is commonly associated to the nitrate medicines and it is used by inhalation to relieve the pain of angina attacks. Recreational use of amyl nitrite (sometimes referred to as amyl nitrate) became popular during the club scene of the 1970s, and through the raves in the 1990s.

Amyl Nitrite Uses

When medically prescribed, the drug is contained in a glass capsule covered by a piece of cloth. The cloth protects the user from injury when the popper is crushed between the fingers. The popped ampule is passed under the nose 1-6 times while the user inhales the vapor. The user should be sitting or lying down when used because of the high likelihood of feeling instantly dizzy or fainting.

Each ampule contains 0.3 milliters of the drug. The dose can be repeated in 1 to 5 minutes, if needed, for angina or chest pain.

The medical uses for amyl nitrite include:

  • To reduce angina pectoris or chest pain by dilating the coronary arteries; this improves the blood flow to the heart

  • An antidote to cyanide poisoning; the drug is carried by first responders in a cyanide poison kit

It is important to note that in current medical protocols, amyl nitrite has been replaced with a different drug--sublingual (under-the-tongue) nitroglycerine--to treat angina pain.

Non-medical, recreational, and potentially dangerous uses for amyl nitrite include:

  • An aphrodisiac that is usually inhaled from a small brown bottle, produces a short-lived rush that also causes a dramatic enhancement of the sexual experience

Amyl Nitrite Side Effects

The side effects of amyl nitrite include the following:

  • Feeling like real time is slowed down
  • Light-headedness
  • Giddiness
  • Heat flushing
  • Heightened sexual awareness
  • Maculopathy or retinal damage
  • Burns, if direct contact with skin
  • Residual headache

The effects of the drug last for 2-5 minutes after inhalation.

Amy Nitrite Cautions and Special Considerations

The effects of amyl nitrite are immediate and intense because it causes a surge of blood to the heart and brain. It should not be used with other vasodilators like sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra) and tadalafil (Cialis) because it can cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure. This can result in fainting, stroke or heart attack.

The drug must only be inhaled. Swallowing or aspirating amyl nitrite can be deadly. It is highly poisonous when ingested. The drug should not be used with alcohol because it can drop blood pressure and cause light-headedness and dizziness.

Amyl nitrite must be used with extreme caution in patients with severe anemia, glaucoma, hyperthyroidism or recent stroke, heart attack or head injury as it can further complicate these conditions. Amyl nitrite is highly flammable and must be kept away from heat sources.

Legal Issues with Amy Nitrite

Amyl nitrite is available by physician as a prescription for medical purposes. It is not intended for getting high or enhancing sex. Amyl nitrite is not intended for recreational use. It can have dangerous consequences for the user when not properly prescribed for a specific medical purpose.

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