New research backs Australian regulatory decision on poppers

June 20, 2019

Young gay and bisexual men are frequent users of alkyl nitrites, or poppers, but few show signs of addiction, risky consumption habits or other psychosocial problems, a study shows.

A survey of more than 800 men aged 18 to 35 found little evidence of typical dependency characteristics, including health, social, legal and financial problems, and no correlation between popper use and mental health or psychological stress.

Dr Daniel Demant, public health researcher at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), conducted the study and said he welcomed the decision by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to step back from prohibiting poppers. The TGA instead elected to classify them as a Schedule 3 drug, available over the counter in pharmacies from February 2020.

An interim decision by the TGA in 2018 recommended poppers be classed as a prohibited substance, in the same category as methamphetamine and heroin, which would have made "overnight criminals" of the estimated 100,000 plus Australian users.

"What we see with this research is that poppers are a very commonly used drug in the LGBT community, both recently and over their lifetime," Dr Demant said.

"Most of the users are already oppressed or marginalised based on their social identity as gay or bisexual men. This creates a question as to whether there would have been a discriminatory element in banning a substance with such a low risk profile.

"Banning a substance that is used by so many people would create a new class of criminals, basically overnight."

Currently, poppers are available on prescription from pharmacies, but they are more commonly bought illicitly, in sex-on-premises venues and LGBT bars. A vial containing 25-30mL of the clear, strong-smelling fluid, possibly labelled as "VHS tape cleaner", "leather cleaner" or "room deodoriser", sells for up to $50, despite costing a couple of cents to manufacture.

The new TGA decision to regulate poppers rather than banning them hopefully paves the way for some measure of quality control as well as the removal of the "extreme profit margin" that exists now, Dr Demant said.

Dr Demant said that with poppers becoming a pharmacy-only medicine, safety standards would have to be met and pharmacy staff could provide guidance in cases where poppers might react badly with users' other medications, particularly Viagra.

"We could stop pretending that poppers are sold for anything other than getting people high. And once we do offer it in pharmacies, we would have something made to the highest standards for people to use."
-end-
The paper 'Harmless? A hierarchical analysis of poppers use among young gay and bisexual men', by Dr Daniel Demant and Dr Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios, is published in Drug and Alcohol Review.

University of Technology Sydney

Related Addiction Articles from Brightsurf:

Opioid addiction treatment is more widely available, but only for adults
Primary care providers have expanded access to buprenorphine for adults, but use of the opioid addiction treatment has decreased among the youngest patients, find researchers at Columbia University.

Is video game addiction real?
A recent six-year study, the longest study ever done on video game addiction, found that about 90% of gamers do not play in a way that is harmful or causes negative long-term consequences.

Eating disorders linked to exercise addiction
New research shows that exercise addiction is nearly four times more common amongst people with an eating disorder.

Co-addiction of meth and opioids hinders treatment
A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that methamphetamine use was associated with more than twice the risk for dropping out of treatment for opioid-use disorder.

New tool to assess digital addiction in children
A new study developed and validated a tool for assessing children's overall addiction to digital devices.

Addiction intervention in hospital is a 'reachable moment'
Patients who meet an addiction medicine consult team while they're in the hospital are twice as likely to participate in treatment for substance use disorder after they go home, according to new research.

How stress leads to Facebook addiction
Friends on social media such as Facebook can be a great source of comfort during periods of stress.

Systematic review of food addiction as measured with the Yale Food Addiction Scale
The aim of this paper was to review the clinical significance of food addiction diagnoses made with the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) and to discuss the results in light of the current debate on behavioral addictions.

Drugs of abuse: Identifying the addiction circuit
What happens in the brain of a compulsive drug user?

Pancreatic cancer's addiction could be its end
Researchers at CSHL have discovered that an inappropriately produced protein may be why some pancreatic cancer patients die exceptionally early.

Read More: Addiction News and Addiction Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.