Cyclohexyl nitrite is found in room deodorizers. Butyl nitrite is often sold in small bottles that, like amyl nitrite capsules, are referred to as poppers. Nitrites are available in adult bookstores and shops and over the Internet.
Poppers are most commonly found in usage by gay men. The drugs are less common today than before, but are generally used in an attempt to prolong sexual stamina. The existence of poppers became more widely known to the layman when they appeared in Radley Metzger's cult classic film Score (1972). In the film, a bisexual woman glides them under the nose of a heterosexual woman in an attempt to loosen her up for seduction.
For most users, inhalant use results in a rapid euphoric effect that is similar to alcohol intoxication. Users experience initial excitation, then drowsiness, lightheadedness, and agitation. Inhalant users also report feeling a loss of inhibitions. The chemicals found in volatile solvents, aerosols, and gases produce a variety of additional effects during or shortly after use that include dizziness, strong hallucinations, delusions, belligerence, apathy, and impaired judgment. Additional symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant users include weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression. Withdrawal symptoms include sweating, rapid pulse, hand tremors, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, hallucinations, and, in severe cases, grand mal seizures.
While users of other inhalants seek a euphoric effect, nitrite users--who tend to be adults rather than adolescents--seek to enhance the sexual experience. Inhaled nitrites dilate blood vessels, increase heart rate, and produce a sensation of heat and excitement that can last for several minutes.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, use of these drugs is associated with unsafe sexual practices that greatly increase the risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Chronic inhalant use may result in serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the user's heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Brain damage may result in personality changes, diminished cognitive functioning, memory impairment, and slurred speech.
Death from inhalant use can occur after a single use or after prolonged use. Sudden sniffing death (SSD) may result within minutes of inhalant use from irregular heart rhythm leading to heart failure. Other causes of death include asphyxiation, aspiration, or suffocation. The combination of nitrites with Viagra, another sex-enhancing drug sometimes used recreationally, can be fatal. A user who is suffering from impaired judgment may also experience fatal injuries from motor vehicle accidents or sudden falls. Nitrites, however, have caused no known deaths and appear to be safer than most other inhalants.
According to Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) Medical Examiner data, inhalants were a factor in over 500 deaths in the United States from 1996 to 1999. Medical examiner data provided by DAWN cover only 40 metropolitan areas in the United States; thus, many inhalant-related deaths across the country are not reflected in DAWN data.