Nav: Home

New chemical composition of 'poppers' linked to retinal damage

April 10, 2017

The new chemical composition of the legal high 'poppers' is linked to retinal damage at the back of the eye, finds a small study published online in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

The findings prompt the researchers to call for a reassessment of the harms associated with these recreational drugs.

Poppers are colourless liquids with strong odours that are inhaled for their psychoactive effects, feelings of euphoria, and sexual arousal.

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 aimed to ban the production and sale of all 'legal highs' in the UK from April 2016. But poppers were exempt as they don't directly affect the central nervous system.

However, the principal chemical ingredient of poppers, isopropyl nitrite, replaced isobutyl nitrite after the latter was reclassified as a cancer causing agent in 2006. And eye problems have emerged as a less well known side effect since the chemical composition of poppers was changed.

The researchers analysed visual disturbances subsequently associated with the use of poppers in twelve 31-59 year old men treated at one specialist eye hospital in southern England between 2013 and 2016.

The men were assessed by a retinal specialist; photographs of their retinas were taken; and their eyes were scanned using optical coherence tomography (OCT), a technique that is similar to ultrasound, but which uses light rather than sound waves to achieve higher resolution pictures of the structural layers of the back of the eye (retina).

The most frequently reported symptom was impaired central vision, such as blurriness, or blind spots (scotoma), with symptoms starting within hours or days of inhaling poppers.

Eight of the products the men used were chemically analysed: Platinum, Hard-on, Rush, Berlin XXX Hardcore, Liquid Gold, Jungle Juice (yellow label), and two Jungle Juice Plus varieties.

Six of the brands linked to visual symptoms contained isopropyl nitrite, while Jungle Juice Plus varieties, used without visual side effects in one case, contained other forms of nitrites and related compounds.

Three patients had used poppers for 20 years or more, only noticing symptoms after switching to a new brand.

One of these men developed a progressive central scotoma after using Jungle Juice, containing isopropyl nitrite. Previous use of Jungle Juice Plus, without isopropyl nitrite, wasn't associated with any visual disturbances.

The second patient noticed symptoms after using Berlin XXX containing isopropyl nitrite, for the first time, having previously suffered no ill effects when using other brands.

The third patient had frequently used isobutyl nitrites in the 1980s with no visual side effects, but after heavy use for the first time in years, developed scotoma.

Individual susceptibility to visual disturbances associated with poppers is likely to vary, say the researchers, although several users gave a clear history of visual disturbance after changing brands.

Most patients fully or mostly recovered several months after stopping drug use, although symptoms didn't clear up in all of them.

Most of the tested products were not the exact samples used by patients, and composition of the poppers might be different to those inhaled, caution the researchers. Popper products should be subject to further analysis as different versions may have differing strengths and contaminants, they add.

But on the basis of their findings, the researchers conclude that isopropyl nitrite is harmful to the fovea--thesmall depression in the retina at the back of the eye where visual acuity is greatest.

The high rate of popper use is "of increasing concern, both because of the mounting body of evidence suggesting that poppers can have serious effects on central vision, but also because users and healthcare professionals may be unaware of the risk," explain the researchers.

Poppers' exclusion from the legislation banning legal highs may have reinforced the impression that they are largely harmless, suggest the researchers.

"While retinal damage can often resolve on cessation of use, symptoms can be prolonged and the visual effects of chronic use of the newer brands of poppers are unknown. For these reasons, it seems appropriate that the level of harm associated with poppers should be reassessed," they conclude.
-end-
Notes to Editors

Research: Poppers: legal highs with questionable contents? A case series of poppers maculopathy doi 10.1136/bjophthalmol-2016-310023

Journal: British Journal of Ophthalmology

Embargoed link to research: https://www.eurekalert.org/jrnls/bmj/bjo310023.pdf

Public link once embargo lifts: http://bjo.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bjophthalmol-2016-310023

BMJ

Related Chemical Composition Articles:

The composition of species is changing in ecosystems across the globe
While the identities of species in local assemblages are undergoing significant changes, their average number is relatively constant.
Geochemists measure new composition of Earth's mantle
Geochemists have investigated the volcanic rocks that build up the Portuguese island group of the Azores in order to gather new information about the compositional evolution of the Earth's interior.
Images from the surface of asteroid Ryugu yield clues to its composition
New images taken by a lander on the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu have yielded clues into the composition and origins of its rocks, which bear strong similarities to primitive meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites.
Dietary quality influences microbiome composition in human colonic mucosa
Studying the association between diet quality and microbiome composition in human colonic mucosa revealed that a high-quality diet is linked to more potentially beneficial bacteria, while a low-quality diet is associated with an increase in potentially harmful bacteria.
Researchers show that the composition of human skin microbiome can be modulated
Scientists at UPF and the company S-Biomedic have demonstrated the use of living bacteria to modulate skin microbiome composition.
Scent composition data reveal new insights into perfume success
Mathematical analysis of online perfume data shows how the unique scent combinations found in different perfumes contribute to product popularity and consumer ratings.
Scientists dissolve crude oil in water to study its composition
Researchers from MIPT, Skoltech, the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Lomonosov Moscow State University have offered a new approach to oil composition analysis.
Body composition shown to affect energy spent standing versus sitting
A person's body composition could influence the difference between the amount of energy they spend while sitting versus standing, according to new research published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
How to generate a brain of correct size and composition
To build the neocortex, a brain area involved in higher cognitive functions, stem cells produce billions of neurons of various types.
Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition
Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) improved with exposure to healthy bacteria in the gut, according to a study in a mouse model of this common women's endocrine disorder.
More Chemical Composition News and Chemical Composition Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.