Amyl nitrate was discovered in 1857. It was used in 1897 to help ease chest pain associated with angina.
Amyl nitrate was banned, but re-marketed as butyl nitrate.
At present the main use is as an antidote to cyanide poisoning.
The nitrates are highly volatile flammable liquids, yellow in colour, which smell like old socks!
They come either packaged in small glass bottles with screw tops or plugs.
Poppers can be bought legally for recreational use in the UK in bars, sex shops and by mail-order.
method of use
Inhaled from the bottle/phial.
Once inhaled the effects are virtually instant and can last from two to five minutes.
Users experience a 'rush' of lightheadedness, roaring in the ears, and a racing heartbeat. This happens because the blood vessels dilate and the heartbeat quickens.
Some clubbers may use it to bring on the effects of Ecstasy whilst clubbing.
The drug can be used to intensify sexual pleasures, it is claimed that it slows the sense of time, prolonging the sensation of orgasm and the prevention of premature ejaculation, although some men have experienced problems with achieving an erection.
Common physical symptoms include bad headaches, nausea, weakness and cold sweats.
Poppers may be fatal if swallowed. It is a skin irritant (spots) and a severe eye irritant. It is highly flammable, so keep away from cigarettes and candles etc. If it is spilled on skin it must be washed off immediately.
Anyone planning to sniff Poppers should leave at least three minutes between inhalations, otherwise blood pressure is reduced which could cause unconsciousness, and more so if the user is lying down to inhale and gets up quickly.
Poppers have been shown to weaken the immune system. In addition they enlarge blood vessels during sex, making bleeding possible and the HIV virus more likely. As a result practising safer sex is important when using them.
Poppers should be avoided by those with asthma or anaemia, present or past heart or respiratory conditions, low blood pressure or epilepsy.
There has been no reported evidence of any physical or psychological dependence. With continued use tolerance will develop after about two to three weeks. A period of abstinence will restore the experience.
Although it is important to drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids when using drugs in a hot club, drinking too much can kill.
A user dancing in a hot club should drink only one pint of water per hour, not more, and eat something salty to replace lost body salts.
Remember to take time out and cool down.
At present the use of Poppers (butyl nitrate) is not illegal but the sale of nitrates to young people under 18 years of age is illegal under the Intoxicating Substance (Supply) Act 1985, which prohibits the sale of solvents to a minor.