Click here to see the results from our 2006 Poppers Survey


Poppers got their name from the days when the drug came in small glass tubes, covered with fishnet, that made a popping noise when you broke them open and inhaled. Today - sold in record stores, clubs and porn shops as vinyl cleaner, liquid incense, room deodorizer, and video-head cleaner - the poppers come in a small bottle with a screw on cap.

Poppers are butyl or amyl nitrate. Nitrates improve blood flow through blocked arteries. Amyl and butyl nitrites (also known as "poppers") increase your heart rate, dilate your arteries and cause your blood pressure to drop. This produces a "rush" as your heart struggles to keep blood flowing to your brain. This can be enjoyable, albeit brief, because you experience a warm flash and intense sexual desire. The effects usually last about 30 seconds to 1 minute, but no more than 2 minutes. Side effects usually include headaches, nausea, coughing and dizziness. Sometimes it can result in loss of consciousness. Amyl nitrite is also flammable, so keep it away from lighters, cigars, cigarettes, candles and guys who are so hot they're on fire!

Since most people sniff poppers, persistent use can cause burns around your nose. Although poppers are not physically addictive, some people can develop a psychological addiction to poppers, feeling that they can't have sex unless they use them. Popper use can be dangerous or even fatal if you are on anti-depressants, or heart disease or blood pressure medication. Do not use them if you are anemic or suffer from glaucoma. In fact, poppers used in combination with any other drug can be life threatening. Poppers also lower your immune system response for days following use, so it can increase your chances of catching HIV and other STDs.

Using Viagra and poppers together is extremely dangerous. Both drugs dilate your blood vessels causing your blood pressure to drop so low that your brain and heart can't get enough oxygen to function. Guess what happens then? It's time for the defibrillator… clear!!!

Another drug commonly used with Viagra is ecstasy. For those of you who don't know, ecstasy (methylene-dioxymethylamphetamine, or MDMA) is a party drug, a stimulant that produces a euphoric sensation and empathic feelings in those who use it. The effects can last anywhere between 3 to 5 hours, with the peak sensation kicking in about 1 hour after taking it. Ecstasy causes your brain to release massive amounts of the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer, usually associated with feelings of elation and happiness. The high wears off once your brain is out of serotonin, and taking more ecstasy will not help you to get the high back because your brain needs time to make more serotonin. This sometimes causes people to "crash," feeling depressed and fatalistic once the effects of ecstasy have worn off. This is because there is no more serotonin left in your brain to balance your mood.

Aside from the crash, some people have experienced heat stroke. This is usually the result of using ecstasy and then dancing for hours on end without drinking water. Some people have died from taking ecstasy, even for the first time! The quality of ecstasy varies. It is taken in pill form, and is often mixed with other drugs, or fillers. These can be even more dangerous than ecstasy, including speed and PCP. Mixing drugs is a recipe for disaster. The Web site is dedicated to giving accurate information about ecstasy use, including pill testing by region to see if anyone is selling or using dirty ecstasy in your neck of the woods.

"Sexstasy" is a Viagra-ecstasy drug combo. The Viagra is intended to counteract the effects of ecstasy, which includes a loss of libido. Viagra can give you a boost. Again, mixing drugs is dangerous. The ecstasy causes a massive bio-chemical reaction in your brain. It can also cause dehydration. Viagra sends blood to your dick. Once again, that means less is going to your heart and brain, and your blood pressure drops. Vigorous activity like dancing and fucking make your heart work over time. Lack of blood and replenishing other bodily fluids can lead to heat stroke, heart attack and even death.

Drug use also impairs judgment. You might be less likely to use condoms when you're feeling particularly "friendly" to someone on ecstasy. Also, taking Viagra in combination with ecstasy increases your chance of developing a Priapism. Many who have taken sexstasy reported having an erection for hours.

So remember, if you're going to use Viagra, make sure to get a doc's stamp of approval first, and steer clear if you have any heart conditions that may cause problems. Don't use Viagra to get it up after drugs and alcohol get you down. That can really fuck you up, and not in a good way. If you're going to use poppers don't mix with other drugs and alcohol. Remember: fuck smart, fuck safe!

For more info on party drugs check out "Drugs In Partyland"

Here are the results of a recent community survey used to assess what guys felt about poppers:

2006 Poppers Survey
Gay Men, Drug Use and HIV Workgroup

Total Respondents = 276

Sexual Identity
HIV Status
19-25 12%
White 82%
Gay 90%
Seattle 71%
HIV+ 19%
26-35 28%
Latino 7%
Bi 7%
In WA 16%
HIV- 72%
36-45 36%
Afr-Am 5%
Hetero 3%
Out WA 13%
HIV? 9%
46-55 16%
Asian 5%
56+ 8%
Pac Is 2%

What is your personal opinion about poppers?
Nearly half (48%) of guys had a favorable attitude towards popper. Either they liked using them, or thought it was okay for others to use. One-third (35%) felt negatively. 16% had neutral opinions.

They're great 16%
I think they're OK to use now and then 32%
Don't like them 35%
Never used, so don't really know 8%
Don't care 8%
Other 1%
  • Very few men don’t know what poppers are.
  • Neutrality about poppers decreases as men age. Greatest shift from neutral to either pro- or anti-poppers happens from ages 26-35 to ages 36-45. Men age 46-55 have the most favorable attitude towards poppers.
  • HIV-positive men have slightly more favorable attitudes than HIV-negative men (55% vs. 46%), and are less neutral about poppers. Is this also a function of age?
  • Attitudes are often discordant with actual use. many men who expressed favorable attitudes had never themselves used or had stopped using after going into recovery. Several men said they “hated” poppers but still used them (and expressed anger that they did). Many men said poppers were OK for others to use although they themselves chose not to.

I feel that I know the facts about poppers.
This was pretty much divided evenly. One-third feels unknowledgeable or uncertain. One-third feels somewhat knowledgeable. One-third feels knowledgeable.

Yes 34%
Some, but would like more 36%
Not sure 17%
No 14%
  • HIV-positive men and men age 46-55 feel most knowledgeable (52% and 49%, total average 34%).
  • Confidence in knowledge about poppers increases steadily with age. Nearly one-half of men 19-25 said they don’t know the facts or feel uncertain about them (highest percentage of all age groups).
  • Confidence in knowledge about poppers increases with use of poppers. The more men use poppers, the more they feel they know about them.

I think poppers are associated with:

* - correct answer
Not sure
Kaposi's Sarcoma
Increased risky sex
Increased HIV risk
Rectal tearing
Erectile dysfunction/impotence
Suppressed immune system
Dangerous with ED drugs

The majority of men correctly know that popper are associated with increased risky sex (70%), HIV risk (59%) and that they are dangerous to use with erectile dysfunction drugs (71%).

  • The risks with the least consensus (no clear majority opinion) include rectal tearing, erectile dysfunction, and suppressed immune system.
  • The risks men feel least certain about include Kaposi’s sarcoma (48%), blindness (44%), and erectile dysfunction (41%). None of these are associated with poppers use (blindness was a “red herring”), so uncertainty is reasonable.
  • Which sub-group is most accurate in its knowledge? Difficult to say as it depends on the risk and the sub-group’s familiarity with that risk.
  • Non-users and men age 19-25 feel the most unsure about associated risks.
  • Users, HIV-positive men, and men age 36-45 are least likely to agree with risks (same groups that said they felt the most confident about their knowledge).
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
    o HIV-positive men are twice as likely to think this is a risk
    o Almost one-half are not sure about KS, or what it actually is?
  • Increased risky sex
    o Users are more likely to disagree
  • HIV risk
    o Non-users, men age 19-25, and men age 46-55 agree with this risk
    o Users are twice as likely to disagree that this is a risk
  • Rectal tearing
    o Users almost twice as likely disagree with this risk
  • Erectile dysfunction
    o Not much variance
  • Suppressed immune system
    o HIV-positive men are more likely to agree this is a risk
  • Dangerous with erectile dysfunction drugs
    o Men age 19-25 are less likely to agree this is a risk (maybe because they don’t use ED drugs as much?)
  • Blindness
    o Most groups disagree or are unsure about this as a risk (this question was a “red herring”)

Do you think it’s possible to become dependent on poppers for sex? A greater number of men think dependence is possible.

Yes 41%
Maybe 32%
No 15%
Not sure 12%
  • Non-users (50%) and men age 36-45 (46%) are more likely to agree.
  • Users (28%), HIV-positive men (23%), and men 36-45 (23%) are more likely to disagree.
  • Non-users are the most unsure of dependence (22% vs. 12%)
  • Men who think dependency is possible are 2 – 3 times less likely to be using poppers.
  • Men who don’t think dependency is possible are 4 – 5 times more likely to be using poppers.

If I wanted more info about poppers, I would go to:

Internet 82%
Doctor 42%
Gay/HIV organization 39%
Friends 25%
Gay mag/news 15%
Baths resource 11%
Other 4%

The overwhelming majority of men would use the Internet to find information; this is consistent across all sub-groups. A portion of this was an online survey.

  • Doctors, healthcare providers, and gay/HIV organizations are important sources of information.
  • Gay print media and the resource areas at bathhouses are not effective sources of information. Users are slightly more likely to utilize baths resources (18% vs. 11%)

Which websites would you use? The majority of men would do a general search on Google or Yahoo.

Google or Yahoo 55%
Don't know 12%
Web MD 7%
The or other HIV site 4% 4%
Other 10%
  • HIV-positive men would use HIV related or medical sites more than other men (21% vs. 4%)
  • Outside Google or Yahoo, there is no clear site preference.

Do you think gay men need better info about poppers and their risks? The overwhelming majority think men need better information. This is consistent across all sub-groups.

Yes 72%
Maybe 20%
No 5%
Not sure 3%
  • 100% of men age 19-25 said yes or maybe.

How often do you use poppers? Most men don’t use poppers.

Daily 2%  
Weekly 13%  
Monthly 11%  
Every few months 18%  
Never 40%  
Quit using 16% Why: Side effects/health problems 42%
In recovery 21%
Tired of them 13%
Fear of consequences 11%
Only experimented 8%
Other 8%
  • Poppers use is more prevalent among men ages 26-45 than other ages.
  • Frequency of poppers use varies somewhat evenly from weekly to monthly to every few months.
  • HIV-positive men are only slightly more likely than HIV-negative men to be currently using (48% vs. 42%), especially among men ages 36-45 (64%) and ages 46-55 (55%). HIV-positive men are more likely to quit using poppers due to personal recovery from all drug use (38%) than HIV-negative men (17%) or men in general (21%).

Do you use poppers for:

Being a bottom
Oral sex
Vaginal sex
  • More men use poppers to be a bottom than to top.
  • About one-half of men chose a combination of bottom/top/oral.

What do you like about poppers? Men like the head rush from poppers more so than any one sexual effect. This is especially true for men ages 19-25 (88% vs. 64%).

Head rush 64%
Easier/less painful to get fucked 46%
Better orgasm 46%
Less inhibited sex 40%
More connected w/partner 22%
Better erection 17%
Easier to use condoms 3%
Other (get aroused, sex more exciting, fisting) 17%
  • The most enjoyed sexual effects include better orgasm (46%), easier or less painful to be fucked (46%), and reduced inhibitions (40%). Enhanced erection is not a primary sexual benefit for most men.

What other drugs do you sue before, with, or right after poppers? The vast majority of men using poppers are not using them regularly or even occasionally with other drugs or alcohol.

Crystal meth
  • The drugs most likely to be always or sometimes used with popper are alcohol (4% always, 38% sometimes) and ED drugs (3% always, 18% sometimes).
  • Co-use of crystal meth, cocaine, or ecstasy is far less common. There is almost no co-use of GHB, ketamine or heroin.
  • Prevalence of other drugs use increases with age, especially Viagra. Co-use of alcohol peaks during ages 36045; crystal meth use is most prevalent in men ages 26-35 and 46055 (similar levels); cocaine and ecstasy use is most prevalent in men ages 19-25.
  • Cocaine use is not more prevalent among African-American men as might be expected.
  • HIV-positive men are more likely to be co-using drugs with poppers. Although prevalence of alcohol use is similar, HIV-positive men are 2 times more likely to be co-using ED drugs and 2-3 times more likely to be co-using with crystal meth.
  • Among men who said they always co-use ED drugs with poppers, 3 say they know it is dangerous to use them together. Among men who say they sometimes co-use ED drugs with poppers, 19 say they know it is dangerous to use them together, and 2 are not sure.