By James Branson

I was a bit late to the party when it came to acting on my own sexuality. I’m bi, which is sometimes a difficult thing to admit. You’ve got one foot in each camp, and some people don’t think you exist at all. 

So it wasn’t until I was about 25 that I actually started having sex with guys. And even then, I still did it with a feeling of shame and reluctance, and after only a half hour or so of fucking another guy, I’d freak the hell out and leave abruptly. I’ve probably left many of my sexual partners thinking “ahhhh… what just happened?”

It wasn’t until I discovered the joys of amyl nitrate – or poppers, or whatever – that I began to be able to let go and enjoy sex with men. The drug (and despite it’s legal status, it is most certainly a drug) gives you a rush to the head and the crotch. As well as having the useful and well-known side effect of relaxing your asshole, readying it for a big intake of dick, amyl sheds you of your inhibitions, which is, for a lot of men who have sex with men, an important part of enjoying our various sexual liaisons. 

Head into any gay club and you’ll recognise the smell of sweat and amyl. The little bottle of fun is a regular feature, with any number of guys (and girls, let’s not discriminate) taking sniffs to get high-as-fuck for a minute or so. Head into the gay bathhouses of Sydney (and any other big city), wander around their darkened corridors and into the steam room full of naked guys at 12am on a Friday or Saturday night, and you’ll no doubt stumble upon a bacchanal of sweat and skin fuelled, in part, by what is sold over the counter as “videotape cleaner”.

The gay community, it would seem, is really keen on keeping its videotapes spick and span.

Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love the stuff. Even at parties, I’ve taken to keeping a bottle with me, and when things get a bit boring or regular, taking a big sniff with a few friends will have you all collapsing in a state of weird-ass laughter for a minute or two.

But we should probably consider the health-effects of something that sees such regular use amongst our community. We talk all the time about safe sex, drugs, mental health… but I’m yet to hear a serious discussion around something that fuels a not-inconsiderable amount of our partying.

Well, let’s get the scary stuff out of the way first: DO NOT COMBINE POPPERS AND VIAGRA. Mixing the two is dangerous for a few reasons. Most significantly, both drugs cause a drop in blood pressure, and that nasty combination can result in a potentially fatal heart attack. In fact, it’s recommended that you DO NOT USE POPPERS WITHIN 24 HOUSE OF TAKING VIAGRA.

Please, please don’t.

Prolonged and regular use of poppers can also have some significant side effects, and there are reports out in the wild of people who have gone on big benders that include regular sniffs of Jungle Juice (or whatever brand you happen to have) falling into a coma. Of course, in most of those cases, the patient has also taken a buttload of other drugs, so it’s hard to tell.

Continued and sustained use of amyl nitrate can lead to damage to the brain, bones, heart, kidneys and liver, and can lead to permanent hearing problems and, in some cases, memory loss and hallucinations.

Some studies have also found that regular use increases the risk of retinal damage.

Also, just in case you’ve been living underground, don’t swallow the stuff: it’ll probably kill you.

Here’s the less scary part: it takes A LOT of regular, daily use to end up with serious health problems from sniffing poppers. Take any drug, even Panadol, on a daily basis, and it’ll give you some issues. Irregular use of amyl nitrate seems to have no permanent side effects besides giving you a loss of inhibition and causing you to drop in a hilarious heap at parties and have other people treat you like you’re Hunter S Thomson on an ether binge.

I’m not going to sit at my computer and encourage anyone to use it. Despite being fun at first, drugs are actually, for the most part, bad. And poppers are drugs, not fucking videotape cleaner.

Perhaps the most important thing to learn, for guys who depend on poppers to shed themselves of those inhibitions when it comes to their sexuality, is to know that there’s nothing to be inhibited about in the first place.

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