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Amyl Nitrite Addiction

Although amyl nitrite is a legally prescribed prescription heart medication for the treatment of angina and for use during cardiac arrest, it has also become an abused recreational drug that can result in amyl nitrite addiction. Also known as “poppers” by users, amyl nitrite is an inhalant that is abused to give the user a sense of excitation and euphoria, particularly in sexual situations or at raves or nightclubs. Amyl nitrite abuse causes euphoria, increases sexual desire, and relaxes the muscles of the anus and vagina. It is also quite common for users to abuse other drugs at the same time as amyl nitrite.

Amyl Nitrite Clones

In addition to the original medically-formulated amyl nitrite, there are many other nitrites that have similar euphoria-inducing properties. These include butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite and cyclohexyl nitrite. In fact, these substances are often the types of nitrites that are more easily obtained by the public due to the fact that they are sold as video head cleaners, computer cleaners, and room odorizers with the “not for human consumption” label.

Much in the same way as “synthetic marijuana” products that are sold as incense or other products in an effort to evade prosecution and seizure by the DEA, these nitrites are, unfortunately, readily available for those seeking to abuse them. For the purposes of this page, we will refer to all of these formulations of nitrites as “amyl nitrite” as this was the first and most well-known of all of these drugs, and all of these drugs have similar effects, side effects, and potential for abuse and addiction.

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Effects of Short-Term Amyl Nitrite Abuse

Because these nitrites cause the blood vessels to dilate, users can experience headaches, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and lightheadedness and can even pass out when using amyl nitrite. An overdose of amyl nitrite can also cause respiratory problems and cardiac abnormalities, putting those with underlying medical problems, in particular, at serious risk. Some nitrites, such as amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite have been listed as causes of SSDS (sudden sniffing death syndrome). This is when a cardiac arrhythmia occurs during the process of inhalant abuse and leads to a cardiac arrest and death. All of these negative consequences can result from even only one session of amyl nitrite abuse.

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Case Study: The Impact of “Poppers” on Vision

A recent study in the U.K. focused on 12 cases—all male—presenting at the Sussex Eye Hospital between 2013 and 2016. All reported some kind of vision trouble, with the most common disturbances including blurriness or blind spots starting within hours or days of inhaling poppers. The “popper” Isopropyl nitrite seemed to be the common element, and the researchers believe it somehow damages the fovea, a small pit of tightly packed cones in the retina that’s mostly responsible for central vision. [1]

Effects of Long-Term Amyl Nitrite Abuse

Long-term abuse of amyl nitrite, such as that experienced by individuals who have developed an amyl nitrite addiction, can cause a number of other serious medical issues as well. Amyl nitrite addicts have experienced lung, heart, liver, red blood cell, immune system, and even brain problems after long-term ingestion of this toxic compound. The fact that these individuals keep using amyl nitrite, even in the face of these potentially deadly complications, illustrates just how addictive this substance can be for individuals who begin using it recreationally.

Amyl Nitrite Addiction and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Because amyl nitrite is so often abused in the context of sexual encounters (often with strangers at clubs or raves), its use is also correlated with high levels of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. When high on amyl nitrite, individuals have impaired judgement in terms of both their sexual partners and the level of sexual protection they employ, making them much more likely to contract a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. These include: HPV, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis and any number of other potentially deadly diseases. In fact, the initial early spread of HIV among the gay community is thought by some to have been exacerbated by amyl nitrite-fueled sex in bathhouses and other social settings.

illustrated bar chart showing the increased usage of amyl nitrite and HIV infection rates

Signs of Amyl Nitrite Addiction

If you suspect a loved one is suffering from amyl nitrite addiction, there are some specific signs you can look for in terms of their behavior to help confirm your suspicions. These include:

 

  • Amyl nitrite or other “poppers” being used regularly, stored around the house, in pockets and in bags
  • Cloths soaked in the liquid
  • The strong, volatile smell of amyl nitrite on clothing, the person, or in the house
  • Irritation around the individual’s nose and mouth
  • A flushed face and uncontrollable laughter (while they are high)
  • Unexplained mood swings

The Dangers of Co-Occurring Disorders with Amyl Nitrite Addiction

Because amyl nitrite is so often used in conjunction with other potentially addictive drugs and alcohol, there is an increased risk among amyl nitrite addicts of having a co-occurring or dual-diagnosis disorder. This is a situation where the individual in question has multiple addictions or an addiction in conjunction with another psychiatric disorder. Individuals with a dual-diagnosis are much less successful in addiction treatment unless all of their underlying disorders are addressed during treatment. If not, they have much higher rates of relapse, as the untreated disorder will often fuel a resumption of their previous addiction.

In the specific case of amyl nitrite addiction, users may also often have an addiction to other “party drugs” such as cocaine or MDMA in addition to amyl nitrite. Sexual addiction is also a strong possibility when one considers the social/sexual context in which amyl nitrite is often consumed. That is why it is critical for individuals with an amyl nitrite addiction to undergo a thorough screening at an accredited residential drug treatment facility to identify and develop treatment plans for any co-occurring conditions during treatment. This will make their chances of successful long-term recovery much higher and result in a much better overall quality of life in the years ahead.

End Your Amyl Nitrite Addiction Before It’s Too Late

If you or a loved one is faced with an amyl nitrite addiction, you should call BWR at 800-683-4457 to get help right away. Don’t wait until the myriad physical and mental problems associated with this drug set in before seeking treatment. Our operators are standing by 24/7 to get you or your loved one the help they need to kick this dangerous addiction.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

"THE GOLD STANDARD IN CARE"

Behavioral Wellness & Recovery is a Joint Commission accredited program. The Joint Commission recognizes excellence in health care organizations and programs.

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