Merck Manual

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Volatile Nitrites

By

Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;


Rika O’Malley

, MD, Albert Einstein Medical Center

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Nitrites, such as amyl, butyl, or isobutyl nitrite (poppers, sold with street names such as Locker Room and Rush), may be inhaled to enhance sexual pleasure. Nitrite-containing liquids may also be ingested with resultant symptoms.

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 phosphodiesterase-inhibiting drugs used for erectile enhancement; the combination can lead to severe hypotension and death.

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