Contrary to, well... logic, poppers having nothing to do with popping pills. The reason the drug is called poppers is because you ‘pop’ the top off the container and inhale the liquid high. This kinda proves how little we actually know the drug, so it’s time to get educated. Think of it as a fun chemistry lesson.

A young woman is looking at her phone. She is researching poppers. This is a close-up image.

What are poppers (UK)? 

They’re a group of liquid chemicals known as alkyl nitrites that come in loud neon bottles. When you sniff them, they release a whiff of vapour that dilates all your blood vessels. They also make you feel really good, which is why they’re used as recreational drugs. In days gone by, they used to come in glass bottles that ‘popped’ when you opened them, thus the name poppers.

How do you take poppers? 

Most people untwist the bottle and take a small sniff from the top. Some dip the tip of a cigarette into the bottle and inhale that. It’s all up to personal preference honestly. 

How long do poppers (UK) last? 

Not long, much like Vin Diesel, they’re a bit fast and furious. The head rush usually lasts between two to five minutes.

Why do people take poppers? 

What do poppers do, you ask? Well, for a start, they can make you pretty happy. Here are some other things they do: 

  • You get a huge rush of blood to the head – like you’re hanging upside down or something
  • If you’re having sex, it increases all the good feelings; every touch feels much nicer than normal. For this reason, they’re actually sold in some sex shops (and for the reason below). 
  • If you fancy a bit of anal sex, poppers loosens up your bumhole muscles
  • You might feel light-headed, giddy, or just really hot
  • Some people feel like time has slowed down

A bad poppers effect, and then some  

The answer to ‘What do poppers do?’ isn’t completely positive. There are for sure some poppers side effects. To name just a few: 

  • We’re pretty damn certain you’ll get an awful head rush straight after taking them
  • You may feel dizzy, sick, and can even faint
  • If you’re a bloke, it may stop you getting or maintaining a decent hard-on as it increases blood flow. You could even have some poppers sex (that both parties are up for, of course). To find out more about sex on drugs, click here. 
  • It puts an increase the risk of a sore throat (not something you want in 2021) and eye damage (not something you want ever, really)
  • You may develop a rash around the nose and the mouth from chemical burns

Are poppers dangerous? 

There have been some reports of people dying suddenly of ‘sudden sniffing death syndrome‘ after sniffing poppers. And it’s potentially fatal for anyone with heart and blood pressure issues to take them. So if you were about to google ‘Are poppers safe?’ to try and find a different answer, don’t bother – it’s a pretty cut and dry case.

Can I take poppers with Viagra? 

We can see the appeal – enhanced sexual feelings combined with a raging insatiable boner – but please don’t mix the two. It can make your blood pressure drop dangerously low, resulting in dizziness, fainting, heart problems and potentially a coma and/or death.

While we’re on the subject of taking poppers with other substances, mixing them with alcohol isn’t a good idea either. This is because it reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your vital organs. Which, not to state the obvious, could cause long term and potentially lethal consequences. 

If you want to find out more about mixing drugs, read our article on the topic. 

How can I reduce the risks if I take poppers? 

The safest way to reduce risk would be to not take them at all. But if you’re planning to sniff them you should listen to the following: 

  • Whatever you do, DON’T SWALLOW THEM. You’ll die. Plain and simple
  • Don’t use them near a naked flame. They’re really bloody flammable
  • Don’t take poppers if you have anaemia, glaucoma, or heart or breathing problems. It messes with your blood pressure and can be fatal
  • Don’t take them if you’re pregnant because nitrates affect the placenta of your baby
  • If they make you horny, please do use a condom

Are poppers legal in the UK?

Yes, they are legal to possess. But, they’re covered by the Medicines Misuse Act, so it’s illegal to sell them if they’re being advertised for human consumption. Baffles the mind how the law works. If you’re confused about any other drug laws, click here.

Next Steps

  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
  • Release offers free and confidential advice on everything to do with drugs and drugs law. 0845 4500 215
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


anal| drug sex

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 07-Sep-2021