Report: Poppers Now Popular on the Straight Party Scene

Saturday May 28, 2022
Originally published on May 18, 2022

According to the New York Times, poppers — long used by gay men — are growing increasingly popular in the straight party scene.

A liquid chemical compound otherwise known as alkyl nitrate, "poppers were popularized by gay men during the 1970s for sex and partying," the article said. "Sold in little brown bottles, the alkyl nitrite is inhaled by the user. It typically causes a head rush and can be a muscle relaxant."

The sale of such substances for the purpose of sniffing them is illegal, but vendors market alkyl nitrate as a cleaning product. Consumers aren't thrown off by that, however — and now, according to the Times, the substance has found its way to "rich-kid fashion parties," as well as on blogs like the one authored by Meg Superstar Princess, who described how "the whole place fumed up" in an "amazing" way when someone on a dance floor spilled their bottle of poppers.

The blogger credited "fashion gays" with the introduction of poppers to a wider community of users, and said that it's not an addictive substance because its fleeting effects trigger headaches.

Medical professionals have a different perspective: "You never know your personal risk until you have the exposure and that's not a recommended way to determine a propensity for addiction," hospital psychiatrist Dr. Rosemary Busch Conn told the Times.

"The greatest danger associated with poppers is drinking the liquid, which can be fatal," the article cautioned, adding that "there are harmful side effects of inhaling poppers for recreational uses, too, including increased heart rate, headaches, dizziness and fainting.

"Of particular concern is mixing poppers with Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs; the combination can cause a precipitous drop in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke or death."

Still, the genie is out of its tiny bottle now, and the partygoers are liking its effects. Straight women, like gay men, say they use the substance to enhance sex; even Cat Marnell, who documented her experiences with addition in the memoir "How to Murder Your Life," suggested that poppers are a safe (or at least safer) alternative to other substances.

"Like some gay men, Ms. Marnell uses poppers mainly for sex, calling them a 'red-light district in a bottle,'" the Times said..

"If I'm going to the guy's house, I bring my own," Marnell told the paper.

Poppers have crossed into the mainstream space, the Times noted, being depicted in pop culture (Sam Smith has spoken openly of using them) and sold (much like vaping products or CBD) in a variety of "artisanal options."

"Double Scorpio, a company in Austin, Texas, markets its product as 'farm-to-disco,'" the Times related, going on to say that the company's product "comes in a variety of aromas including eucalyptus, frankincense and pumpkin spice."

Could there be a clearer indication of mainstream status than pumpkin spice? And will that very status trigger, in some quarters at least, a move away from poppers? Time will tell.