Alkyl Nitrite Poppers Have Been Vilified by Several Roots of Misinformation For over 40 Years
All over the web one finds articles about the devastating health effects of inhaling alkyl nitrite, also known by their street name – Poppers. It is hard to determine the validity and reliability of the claims that are made. There are a number of reasons for this confusion. Typical of the cloud of inaccuracy surrounding the topic, many of the articles either pass on outdated and inaccurate information, or perpetuate information that is long proven to be flat out incorrect. The nature and documentation of these untruths will be discussed later.
There has been no dialogue about the merits of the use or the claims against use of poppers for recreational purposes until recent discussions in Britain. These frank discussions came about as result of debate in Parliament over the Psychoactive Substances Act in the winter of 2016. No such dialogue has taken place in the United States since 1990 when the US Congress banned isopropyl nitrite and other nitrites.
Why Does Recycling These Distractors Matter?
Political decisions and laws have passed regulating these alkyl nitrite compounds based on these “scientific” data. Most people who read these statements do not have the time, inclination or educational resources to wade through the facts in these cases. The primary question raised is whether the scientific processes and conclusions are sound and based on sufficient data to make wide-ranging generalizations about the health consequences. When these inaccurate or outdated conclusions are used, the problem magnifies itself geometrically. Most articles presenting these data do not qualify their remarks so the reader can weigh the matter and pass judgment based on facts.
The State of Poppers Confusion Has Many Tentacles
One would be suspicious to think that so much data, information stated as fact, and misrepresentation can occur so readily. People tend to believe what they read on the Internet and hear in the news is reliable. In the case of poppers, however, the presentation of information is either a hard sell under the guise of an informational or authoritative site, a report of medical “findings”, or a biased site trying to proselytize the reader or offer rehabilitation from the “drug.” That said, there are reliable sites that do offer factual information, but sifting through the pile of confusion is a challenge. If one accepts the premise that the Internet is so full of misinformation about alkyl nitrite poppers, what is at the root of all of this confusion?
There are Many Roots of Misinformation:
- Animal studies result in findings that are not transferable to humans.
- Not much new research conducted on the topic.
- Scientific processes used are flawed, especially when mega doses are administered and/or injected.
- Replication of the studies and/or the conclusions drawn from them don’t match the findings.
- Political agendas of the people reporting the results taint the objectivity of the point of view.
- Isolating Alkyl Nitrites from Industrial Volatile Compounds Is Rarely a Priority.
- Alkyl nitrite poppers are treated as a drug and not a household product.
- Despite the correction of the myth of amyl nitrite causing AIDS, the myth continually pops up in routine searches as fact.
- Dosing in most human studies does not reflect typical amounts inhaled by recreational users.
- Researchers draw dire conclusions about health impact and then rescind them in a disclaimer at the end, similar to “strike that from the record”, or they add a disclaimer about the applicability to humans.
- Wikipedia’s Poppers page publishes much misinformation on the topic.
- While Britain’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs reports use of poppers not harmful and not psychoactive, little fanfare was made of this.
- Isolated cases are generalized to the whole population, and dramatized.
- Generalizations are made and not supported by evidence.
- Factual information was ignored when presented in the US.
When one considers all of these negative root causes, and the lack of information being provided by proponents of alkyl nitrite use for recreational, sexual and relationship purposes to counteract these forces, it is clear that the preponderance of information is stacked against discussion and advocacy for personal uses of poppers. The root causes are insidious. Fact or not, the conclusions are repeated and passed along as if they were, in fact, indisputable truths. Arguments are built upon misinformation and the web builds. This constant reinforcement of inaccuracy has effectively eliminated the truths and realities about inhaling poppers for personal uses.
How to Spread the Truth and Facts About Poppers
Counteracting 40 years of distorted and inaccurate information about the health impact of inhaling poppers for recreational, sexual, relationship and other personal purposes is a daunting task since an object in motion is a lot harder to stop. So much information has been disseminated that has built on and generalized the myths. Web searches on the subject rehash and present these outdated stories without regard to the reliability and validity of the information contained within. There are no disclaimers that the data are wrong, old or based on flawed reasoning and processes. There is no way to evaluate the objectivity of the author, or to seek out their affiliations as a measure of bias. Unfortunately, there is little interest on the part of the general public to see these errors corrected. Most people just don’t care about the topic. Those who do care are in the minority and have little power to change things.
Champions in the cause to inform can be found in a few objective researchers and reporters and a handful of political leaders. Clearly the vocal advocates in England’s Parliament stand out. MOP Crispin Blunt, and other political and government leaders vocalized ideas and sentiments about the impact of popper use in the 2016 debate about whether to include alkyl nitrites in the Psychoactive Substances Act. In the United States, such public support was last heard in 1983 when U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission declined to ban nitrite poppers due to lack of injury potential, and a clear history of safe use. Again in 1988 Senator Kennedy’s REPORT of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, commissioned by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) found, “Because of the lack of significant health risks associated with nitrite use, and the fact that less than 3% of the population has ever used it, the HHS Report suggested no federal legislation and recommended that alkyl nitrites not be treated as drugs. Based on these recommendations, the Committee concludes that no further federal action as to alkyl nitrites is warranted.” Despite this information, controlling actions have been taken to regulate personal use of alkyl nitrites. There is no current debate on the merits of personal use of alkyl nitrites or the regulations controlling them and limiting their use to specific commercial purposes.
There are advocacy organizations and sites created by interested parties whose missions are to correct the inaccuracies about poppers and to further objective and accurate discussion about the topic. Primary is this not-for-profit nitrite.org as well as virusmythpoppersmyth.org. While one could question the bias of these sites, they have as their goal to identify the truth and report on the facts. This has not always been a priority of those addressing the subject in the past. Their sole intent is to straighten out the confusion caused by the misreporting over the years.
Making health, political and legal decisions based on flawed scientific processes and research, results in flawed medicine, politics and laws. Worse yet, innocent people who desire to use these products for personal, social or recreational uses, get cheated of the opportunity. In addition, they could run amok of the ill-founded laws, based on the flawed reasoning. Clearly, this is what has happened over time in the regulation of, and banning of the use of alkyl nitrites for anything other than cleaning solvents, air fresheners and leather polishes.
Roots of Misinformation to be Examined in Future Articles and Blogs
In follow up articles and future blogs, the roots of misinformation will be explored and examined in detail in order to set the record straight. Curious individuals will be able to explore the truths about poppers, and find a community of intellectuals committed to understanding the realities and the biases. We would encourage readers to submit questions and comments to this site, and to suggest new directions for our research.