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by Christopher Bayliss

©Ballis, 2023

An associate had one of those awkward conversations with her elderly mother after the word “amyl” came up somehow, leading to words like “Rush”, “Jungle Juice” “leather cleaner”, aroma, and others. My associate had to explain how it is used to relax muscles for anal sex.

Anal sex is not the whole story just as the correct name for amyl is buried under a pile of brand names, similar chemicals and slang terms.

Let’s get our words right first. The product in question is amyl nitrite but often confused with the similar-sounding amyl nitrate and with other chemicals such as mescaline due to a similar method of use, inhaling.

0f those other items, mescaline is a psychoactive chemical derived from diverse types of cacti and introduced to Europeans and the rest of the world after the conquest of the Americas. Although it has some medical uses, it is mostly illegal around the world except for some Native American communities where it has cultural significance. Amyl nitrate, the one usually confused by name with amyl nitrite, is commonly used as a diesel fuel additive, it has a similar but far more dangerous recreational use as nitrite.

Amyl nitrite comes with a variety of slang and retail names such as poppers, leather cleaner, head cleaner, Jungle Juice, Rush, Amsterdam, Blue Boy … it’s a long list, too long for here. Popper can refer to other inhalants, too, named as a method of delivery is to snap a single-dose vial of the stuff under one’s nose.

So, after all that, what is amyl nitrite?

It is a chemical, usually in a small bottle and delivered by brief inhaling. There are variations of the amyl nitrite molecule which have similar effects. It is used in cleaning chemicals and in perfume. Amyl nitrite has medical uses including the inducement of methemoglobin to combat some forms of poisoning, and the treatment of heart-related problems. Recreational use of amyl nitrite goes back many years and usually associated with what was traditionally known as the gay community.

If we are going to talk recreational use, we need to think back a paragraph, remembering the medical uses. As a heart medication, it should not be used in tandem with sexual disfunction drugs such as Viagra, Cialis and others which already alter the way the cardiovascular system works. Combining the two can lead to heart attack. It should not be used by people with heart conditions outside of medical supervision.

Amyl nitrite works in two ways for recreational use. It can induce pleasant vision effects, a light-headedness like being stoned, and an out-of-body feeling, these effects lasting a minute or so. When inhaled at the point of extreme emotional response, typically orgasm, it can increase the sensation. It is often used to increase the effects of cocaine, GBH and speed. The other effect of amyl nitrite is to lower blood pressure by expanding blood vessels temporarily, encouraging the relaxation of involuntary muscles, particularly those around the anus, facilitating easier anal sex.

The bottles should be capped immediately after use to avoid evaporation. A re-capped bottle will usually store for a few days.

Although there are no withdrawal symptoms, amyl nitrite is emotionally addictive for some users, leading to frequent use, often several times in an hour and may induce sleep. Frequent use can discolour the skin below the nose to a yellow-brown hue and cause a rash, can lead to breathing difficulties, nausea, hypotension, and feinting.