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Nitrite Inhalants

Nitrite Inhalants

Nitrite inhalants contain chemical substances similar to amyl nitrite, which is prescribed for the relief of chest pain. However, these inhalants, commonly called “poppers,” have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not safe to ingest or inhale.

The use of nitrite inhalants is often associated with risky sexual behaviors (leading to transmission of sexually transmitted diseases), illicit drug use, and suicide attempts.

There is also a risk of drug-related overdose the associated risk of death.

What are Nitrite Inhalants?

Nitrite inhalants are substances that are breathed in to get a high or to experience a change in consciousness. They can be inhaled, ingested, or injected into the body.

They are often sold via the Internet, in adult novelty stores, and other locations in small bottles that look like energy shot beverages. They may be labeled as:

  • Air fresheners
  • Liquid incense
  • Deodorizers
  • Leather cleaners
  • Cosmetics
  • Solvents
  • Nail polish removers

Using Nitrites as a Recreational Drug

Recreational inhalant use is a major problem in our country. It is becoming as common as recreational use of marijuana and it is extremely dangerous.

There have been reported increases in deaths and hospitalizations related to intentional use of nitrite products for recreational use, including the enhancement of sexual experiences for some homosexual and bisexual men.

It is also a problem with young people. According to the National Institute on Drug abuse, nearly 21.7 million Americans aged 12 and older have used inhalants at least once in their lives. NIDA’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey revealed that 13.1 percent of 8th-graders have used inhalants. (NIDA, 2011)

What are Poppers?

Poppers is a nickname for this recreational drug. They come in small bottles and may be marketed as room aromas. Although poppers are not meant for ingestion, they can produce an intense high and cause dizziness and increased heart rate if swallowed.

What is Amyl Nitrite?

Amyl nitrite is a depressant which slows the messages between the brain and the body. It is part of a class of drugs known as alkyl nitrites, which also includes isobutyl nitrite, isopropyl nitrite, and butyl nitrite.

Amyl nitrite causes blood vessels to dilate and involuntary smooth muscles to relax, lowering blood pressure.

Medically it is used for the treatment of angina (chest pain), and for the treatment of cyanide poisoning.

What Household Products Contain Amyl Nitrite?

The most common products that contain amyl nitrite include sprays and spray paint. Nitrites consist mainly of cyclohexylene nitrite, amyline nitrite and butylene.

The Chemical Compound

The chemical compound amyl nitrite is a volatile organic nitrite. It causes an increased heart rate and decreased myocardial oxygen consumption. It alters the balance between oxygen supply and consumption of blood.

Amyl Nitrite Effects in the Body

Amyl nitrite can cause depressant effects and slows communication between the body and brain.

The vapors of amyl nitrite inhalants have an immediate effect on the heart and lungs. They dilate blood vessels, thereby decreasing blood pressure.

More Dangerous with Other Drugs

Using nitrite inhalants with other drugs can be dangerous and unpredictable.

Amyl nitrite used with Viagra or other medications for erectile dysfunction can cause a rapid and extreme lowering of blood pressure.

Using it with amphetamines can place a serious strain on the heart.

Is Isobutyl Nitrite the Same as Amyl Nitrite?

Yes, isobutyl nitrite is a chemical compound that is used as an inhalant. It is also known by the names amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and isoamyl nitrite.

Isobutyl Nitrite was discovered in 1867 by British chemist John Stenhouse. It was synthesized from amyl alcohol and sulfuric acid.

Isobutyl nitrite inhalation is dangerous.

Signs of Nitrite Inhalant Use

Inhalants can be found in everyday items such as aerosol sprays, glue, gasoline, and paint thinner. The signs and symptoms of use vary depending on the type of chemical used.

Symptoms of Nitrites Used as Recreational Drugs

  • Heavy breathing, or hyperventilation
  • Headache, dizziness, or vertigo
  • Chest pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Slurred speech or loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased sexual behavior
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety and panic attacks

Risk Factors for Using Nitrite Inhalants

Adolescents who regularly use inhalants are at higher risk of developing mental health problems. Studies have found they are more likely to engage in delinquent activities and to use multiple inhalants.

Nitrite inhalant use by all ages results in higher rates of alcohol and drug dependence, and mental health problems. It has also been linked to risky sexual behaviors. Studies have shown that male users of nitrite inhalants are at increased levels of risk for HIV infection.

Nitrite Drug Abuse

Inhalant abuse involves inhaling the vapors of substances, such as gasoline, paint thinner, and cleaning fluids.

The abuse of inhalants is widespread and may be underreported. Users often underestimate the dangers of inhaling or ingesting commonly used household products.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs of inhalant abuse vary depending on the substance that is being abused. Some common signs and symptoms of inhalant drug abuse include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Poor coordination
  • Confusion or slurred speech
  • Engaging in risky sex
  • Hallucinations

Nitrite Inhalants and Gay Men

A lifetime nitrite inhalant habit may involve sexual risk behavior. This is especially true for gay men who frequent the party scene where they can become addicted to amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite and other recreational drugs.

Nitrite Inhalants and Gay Men in China

Nitrite inhalant use is very common among men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. There is lack of national representative data on this use, however, and public health officials there cannot confirm how nitrite inhalant use impacts HIV infection (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in MSM in that nation.

UCLA Health Reports on Use of Inhalants During Sex

The Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, which contributed landmark findings on the epidemiology of human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV), said that since the 1960s, amyl nitrites have been popularly used among homosexual and bisexual men seeking to enhance their sexual experiences.

Drug, Alcohol Abuse Care at La Hacienda

La Hacienda Treatment Center has helped people with drug, alcohol, and other substance abuse problems for 50 years.

La Hacienda’s medical and clinical teams stay abreast of developments in the industry such as the new recreational drug craze and the use of nitrite inhalants. They are constantly working together to address these challenges and to provide the best evidence-based care for their patients.

Upon arrival, patients receive a thorough assessment of their condition and history. The staff use this to prepare an individualized treatment plan for each patient that addresses mind, body, and spirit.

Medically supervised detoxification is available in our Special Care Unit. During treatment, patients see a doctor daily and are attended by licensed nurses 24/7 as needed.

Treatment emphasizes the 12 Step recovery principles which provide a foundation for patients to engage in their recovery. Staff lead them through Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 and they are provided with information of 12 Step groups in the area in which they go after treatment so they can continue the steps.

For more information about treatment or to start the admission process, phone (800) 749-6160 today and talk with one of our helpful admission specialists.

Nitrite Inhalants Disease Control Public Health | La Hacienda


Inhalants are substances that produce psychoactive effects by being inhaled. Inhalant abuse such as huffing paint can lead to adverse health effects, including death. The most common type of inhalant is aerosol spray propellant, but there are many other types such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas), amyl nitrite (“poppers”), isobutyl nitrite, butane lighters, gasoline, and even household products like spray paint and whipped cream aerosol cans.

Relation Recreational Drug Use Hiv Transmission | La Hacienda

Volatile Solvents

Volatile solvents, like volatile nitrites, are substances that vaporize easily at room temperature. These substances are usually organic compounds, and they can be found in a wide range of products. Volatile solvents can be used as industrial solvents, paint thinners, and degreasers.

Amyl Nitrite Non Injection Substance Use | La Hacienda


Aerosols are the chemicals–propellants–in spray can products. They may be for recreational use or to deliver medication, such as to the lungs in asthma inhalers. Aerosol abuse, such as sniffing or huffing spray paint, has been increasing in recent years. Some experts predict that it will soon become the most common form of drug abuse in the United States.

La Hacienda Treatment Center Campus | La Hacienda

Spray Paint

The inhaled toxic chemicals in spray paint cans–propellants and solvents–pass from the lungs into the blood system and on to the brain, causing mind-altering effects. The result is like that caused by depressants such as tranquilizers, sedatives, or alcohol, although usually shorter-lasting. The potential negative consequences of huffing paint and the other forms of abuse are extremely dangerous: brain damage, neurological problems, and sudden death.