AN INHALANT drug commonly used for sex and short recreational highs could soon be outlawed in Australia.

Amyl nitrite — also known as poppers — faces a ban in Australia after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) supported a proposal to outlaw the substance.

If the proposal is approved, the inhalant drug will be placed in the same category as heroin and cocaine, meaning those caught selling, using or in possession of the substance will likely face criminal charges.

Poppers currently operate in a legal “grey area” in Australia. While the sale of any product containing amyl nitrite or its related counterparts for recreational use is illegal, poppers are available for purchase behind the counter at many adult shops and bathhouses, surreptitiously labelled “leather cleaner” and “nail polish remover”.
Amyl nitrite was used to treat angina in the 1960s, but became a soft recreational drug from the mid-1970s onwards.

Inhaling the substance gives users a brief head-rush and creates a sense of euphoria by dilating the blood vessels.

This brings about a relaxation effect on involuntary smooth muscles, such as the throat and anus, which makes them popular for use during sex, particularly in the LGBTI community.

Common side-effects of the substance includes headaches, dizziness and temporary erectile dysfunction, but it’s not thought to create long-term issues unless the user has pre-existing health conditions.

But medical experts are divided over the substance, with some arguing it causes minimal harm in moderate amounts.
Earlier this year Dr Aifric Boylan, Australian GP and CEO of online doctor service Qoctor, told Vice News the substance was less harmful than other recreational drugs, and was not addictive.

It can, however, exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions.

“If a person is susceptible to glaucoma — a condition involving raised pressure in the eyes — amyl can make it worse,” she said. “And if a person has heart or circulation problems, the unpredictable changes in blood pressure can cause them to become seriously unwell. And if a person is on treatment for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, poppers can also cause seriously low blood pressure which may lead to stroke.”

According to the TGA’s formal report on the amendment, the risks involved in using the drug include “illicit use for euphoric and muscle relaxant effects, adverse events including maculopathy and methaemoglobinaemia”.

It says there are “no therapeutic benefits associated with the use of alkyl nitrites”, that they are “toxic via inhalation” and are “misused … as sex aids due to their muscle relaxant properties”.

Reformulation of the substance are legal for sale across most of western Europe, including the United Kingdom.

In the US, they are discretely available for purchase in adult stores.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey found 0.8 per cent of the population, or 184,000 people, in Australia had used in inhalant in 2013. This, however, was not limited to poppers, and may have included petrol and paint thinners.