Poppers are common on the scene and are used by many men, either in clubs or to enhance sex. Our research suggests that 44% of men in Glasgow and Edinburgh report using poppers during sex.

What are poppers?

“Poppers” is the common name given to a class of drugs called alkyl nitrites. Poppers are available in shops and some bars and clubs.

 Are Poppers legal?

Poppers are not a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act or the Psychoactive Substances Act. They are commonly sold as room odourisers. Possession of poppers is not illegal, however it is illegal to sell poppers if advertised for human consumption.

Why do men take poppers?

Poppers are used by men to enhance their sexual experience as they relax the muscle around the anus and can also cause an increased sensual awareness (headrush).

What other effects do poppers have?

Common effects of poppers are

  • A short lived “high” that lasts five minutes or less
  • Some men report a longer lasting orgasm
  • Some men report a stronger erection although others report difficulty in getting an erection
  • Some people report feeling sick or faint after using poppers.

Are there any risks to using poppers?

Poppers can cause blood pressure to drop to dangerous levels. Therefore you shouldn’t take them if you have problems with blood pressure, are taking blood pressure medication or if you are taking Viagra. Poppers can also make you feel sick and give you a headache.

As with all drugs, mixing poppers with alcohol can be dangerous. Oxygen supply to your organs can be reduced, potentially leading to unconsciousness and death.

What About PrEP?

PrEP is the name given to medicines that can be taken by someone who is HIV negative to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP needs to be taken regularly and as instructed to keep the level of drug high enough to prevent infection. If PrEP isn’t taken as instructed the level of medication may not be high enough to stop HIV infection.

PrEP is not a catch-all safer sex strategy, PrEP only protects against HIV infection. You could still get other STIs like gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia. As condoms are still the best way to prevent these and other STIs we recommend that you use condoms too.

You can find out more about PrEP in our PrEP FAQ section, including how it works, the eligibility criteria and how to make an appointment to talk to us about PrEP.

Are there any impacts on sexual health?

When using poppers you may feel less inhibited, engaging in riskier sexual behaviours than at other times, which may lead to acquiring a sexually transmitted infection.

If you feel there is an aspect of your poppers use you are not happy with it is important to speak to someone about it. You can speak to someone at Steve Retson Project. 

You can contact us by calling 0141 211 8130 to make an appointment at one of our clinics.