In a move towards to decriminalisation of so-called ‘Poppers’, the substance sold for its muscle-relaxing effects, used widely amongst gay men and as a club drug, the Home Secretary has said she wants to ‘explicitly’ remove any legal ban on supply of the drug in a letter to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
In the letter, Ms Patel acknowledges the existing law on the substance, whose scientific name is ‘alkyl nitrites’, is uncertain. Currently, it is legal to sell poppers but only as products not for human consumption, possession is not illegal, but supply can be an offence. For this reason, poppers are often sold as room odourisers or leather cleansers.
Poppers are not currently covered by the Psychoactive Substance Act of 2016, which criminalises the production, supply, or offer to supply of any psychoactive substance that is likely to be used for its psychoactive effects, and regardless of its potential for harm.
Poppers have been used recreationally since the 1970s. They are said to give an instant ‘high’ when inhaled, usually from a small glass bottle or from something absorbent. Inhaling poppers increases blood flow to the body giving some users a head-rush effect that lasts for a few minutes, a sense of euphoria, increased sex drive and skin sensitivity.
It can also leave users feeling sick and faint and cause nosebleeds, headaches, and chest pain. They can be fatal for anyone with heart problems, anaemia or glaucoma eye disease, advises the government’s website Frank, which provides information about drugs, their street names, associated risks and current legislation.
Cocaine use on the rise
In the same letter the home secretary has ordered the ACMD to look at how to prevent sales of illicit drugs online and to investigate the rise in cocaine use amongst young men.
Ms Patel says her first priority is to find out why “the number of powder cocaine users has increased sharply over the past five years” adding much of that activity is driven by white men under the age of 30, most notably in the East Midlands and south-west England.
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