Does Isobutyl Nitrite Cause Brain Damage?

Isobutyl nitrite sounds like something that would never see the outside of a science lab, but it turns out the opposite is true. This intensely aromatic, colorless liquid, sold in small vials, is in a group of chemical compounds called “alkyl nitrites.” On the streets, it is in a group of inhalant drugs known as “poppers,” which people sniff to get a quick, intense euphoric high that lasts only a few minutes at a time.

Poppers can be used alone or with other drugs, such as weed or MDMA (ecstasy, Molly), for stronger effects. In the 1800s, they were used for medicinal purposes, such as treating angina and cyanide poisoning. In the 1970s, however, they were used recreationally, particularly in the gay club scene. Their popularity has stood the test of time, lasting throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s rave scene. Even today, young people use them as a party drug to have a good time.

“….Poppers are probably the easiest high you can get when you’re a young person or a non-drinker. They’re affordable, they’re portable, you can buy them OTC, and the high goes away just in time for curfew,” writes Isabelle Kohn for Rooster, who works at an adult shop and says poppers are its best-selling product.

Poppers are available over-the-counter at shops, particular adult sex shops, bars, and clubs. They often are marketed as something other than what they are, such as room fragrances, incense, or multipurpose solvent cleaners. Brand names include “TNT,” “Liquid Gold,” “Rush,” “Bolt,” and “Locker Room,” among others.

According to Kohn, they are illegal in Canada and hard to find in most U.S. cities. However, there’s little problem in finding and buying them online. Their availability and easy access make them appear less dangerous than they actually are. In 2006, isobutyl nitrite, an ingredient used in poppers, was reclassified as a cancer-causing agent. After that, the substances were made with isopropyl nitrite.

What happens when you sniff poppers? Chemical fumes

After one or a few whiffs of isobutyl nitrite, users may experience a spacey, “out of it” feeling in a few minutes accompanied by a sensation of heat and excitement. They also may experience heightened sensual awareness and sexual arousal, which are some of the main reasons people take it. Inhaling the fumes also lowers blood pressure, speeds up heart rates, and makes involuntary muscles relax. While users are wrapped up in the pleasurable feelings the drug induces, the chemicals inhaled can be hazardous to one’s health.

The LGBT Foundation writes that poppers act as vasodilators that cause blood vessels to relax and expand. When this happens, an inflow of extra blood is created and blood surges to the heart and brain. “Blood pressure then drops and the heart must beat faster to maintain circulation,” the site’s report says. This drop in blood pressure can last from two to five minutes, which can happen each time a dose is repeated.

Other short-term effects of isobutyl nitrite use include:

  • Headache
  • Flushed face, chest
  • Lightheadedness (dizziness or fainting happens in rare cases)
  • Detachment, loss of or lowered inhibition
  • Silliness, lightheartedness

Are poppers addictive?

No, they are not physically addictive nor do users deal with physiological cravings. However, they are habit-forming and regular use can lead to a psychological dependence on them. If dependence has developed, it will come down to willpower to stop taking them. If there is trouble with stopping use, therapy is recommended.

Burns, poisoning, and other popper problems

The thing to keep in mind about isobutyl nitrite is that it is a chemical that should be handled with care. A headache from the fumes from occasional use can be expected, but the severity of that headache depends on how much isobutyl is inhaled. When users take things too far, of course, unpleasant things happen. Here are a few reminders that illustrate how dangerous poppers are.

Poppers are highly flammable. They should not be used near flames, lighted cigarettes, or anything that can be ignited.

Poppers will burn the skin. If the substance mistakenly touches your skin, wash it off with plenty of water as soon as possible. Dermatitis is also a possibility when the substance comes into contact with human skin.

Poppers should not be swallowed. Ever. Swallowing these chemicals will burn your mouth and throat and cause nausea and vomiting. They also are deadly if swallowed and can lead to poisoning. Immediate medical attention should be sought in the event that the substance is swallowed.

Users are discouraged from using these drugs with Viagra or nitrite medicine that is prescribed to treat heart conditions. Some users may wonder, “Does isobutyl nitrite cause brain damage?” Reports say long-term use of amyl nitrite can permanently damage the brain, heart, kidney, liver, and bones, according to the US Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

Still, isobutyl nitrite should not be used excessively to the point of self-harm or endangerment.

Researchers link poppers use to eye damage

While isobutyl nitrite has not been directly linked to causing brain damage as amyl nitrite does, using poppers frequently or for the long-term might cause permanent retinal damage, according to a Popular Science report.

A study conducted between 2013 and 2016 found that in 12 cases of poppers involving males, all reported having trouble with their vision. Blurriness or blind spots that started within days of inhaling poppers were the most common disturbances reported, wrote Rachel Feltman of  Popular Science. Researchers also noted that the replacement ingredient isopropyl nitrite might be a factor.

“There was immediately evidence that the replacement of isobutyl nitrite might be to blame: Some men who had used poppers regularly for decades reported sudden symptoms after changing brands. Isopropyl nitrite seemed to be the common element, and the researchers believe it somehow damages the fovea, a small pit of tightly packed cones in the retina that’s mostly responsible for central vision,” Feltman wrote.

Most of the study’s subjects recovered from their eye damage, but some did not, the report said.

Having a hard time putting poppers down?

If you or a loved one is struggling with poppers abuse or an inability to stop using them despite trying many times, call Arete Recovery at 855-921-2416 now or contact us online to find out more about your options. Recovery might just be a call away.

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