Can Poppers Give You Cancer?
Are poppers safe? I believe poppers are chemicals like butyl nitrate. Nitrates are supposed to be carcinogenic. Is this an issue with poppers? Are there any known long-term side effects?
You may be mixing up your pork and your poppers.
"Poppers" are akyl nitrites - either amyl nitrite or butyl nitrite. Today they're usually sold in screw-top bottles, but they originally came in small glass capsules wrapped in cotton wool that you would crush between your fingers and break open with a "pop." The chemicals in poppers are used in the medical world to relieve pain for people who have coronary artery disease. Amyl nitrite dilates blood vessels, easing the heart's work.
Recreational users of poppers like the feel of blood rushing to the head, a flush of heat, dramatically altered consciousness, and heightened sensual awareness. Poppers have a special reputation for intensifying and prolonging orgasm, and for a time in the '70s and early '80s they were especially popular among gay men, giving rise to the unproven theory that poppers were linked to Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer.
There are potential dangers with using poppers, but they're not the same as the ones associated with foods containing nitrites, like bacon or hot dogs. The nitrites in these meats aren't carcinogenic, but they form cancer-causing substances (nitrosamines) in the stomach. Vitamin C helps block this conversion. Nitrates, also added to cured meats, convert to nitrites in the body.
All nitrites are poisonous in excess. But when inhaled, amyl nitrite breaks down easily and leaves the body quickly. It's been considered one of the safest drugs in medicine.
As with anything else, it's wise not to overdo it. Potential side effects include nausea, headaches, and dizziness - and long-term, psychological dependence is possible. People who are anemic or have high blood-pressure, glaucoma, liver disease, or recent head injuries shouldn't use it - nor should pregnant women. Be careful not to get it in your eyes, and don't use it in situations requiring muscular coordination (like driving) or in combination with depressants (like alcohol). Finally, make sure you get plenty of fresh air afterward to flush the chemical out of your system.