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Volatile Nitrites

by Patrick G. O’Connor, MD, MPH

Nitrites (poppers, as amyl, butyl, or isobutyl nitrite, sold with street names such as Locker Room and Rush) may be inhaled to enhance sexual pleasure. There is little evidence of significant risk, although nitrites and nitrates cause vasodilation, with brief hypotension, dizziness, and flushing, followed by reflex tachycardia (see Table: Symptoms and Treatment of Specific Poisons). Nitrites may cause methemoglobinemia. However, they are dangerous when combined with drugs used for erectile enhancement; the combination can lead to severe hypotension and death.

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