Gay Men and Inhalant Use

Gay men may use inhalants such as poppers to relax or enhance sexual activity. Poppers are recreational drugs that may have a relaxing euphoric effect and may be common in some urban gay communities.

Some common brand names for poppers are Jungle Juice, Rush and Amyl Night. Poppers may be composed of various types of alkyl nitrites, a type of inhaled drug that may be useful for some medical purposes but can be dangerous when abused.

These chemicals are illegal as recreational drugs in the U.S. and are often sold labeled as air freshener or nail polish remover in order to work around restrictions. They are often sold alongside sex toys and pornography and may seem safer because they are not street drugs or prescription drugs, but in reality they can be dangerous and may be fatal when abused.

Why Gay Men May Abuse Inhalants

Many gay men may deal with discrimination or harassment from family, co-workers or strangers. Cultural pressure to conform to gender norms may lead to difficulty accepting one’s gay or bisexual identity.

These issues may lead to low self-esteem and depression.

Poppers and other inhalants may be abused as a way to escape uncomfortable feelings, to reduce sexual inhibitions or to cope with social anxiety. Gay men may also begin using poppers to ease anxiety in dating or sexual situations.

How Inhalants Can Be Addicting


Some gay men may come to rely on poppers and may be unable to enjoy sex without the use of the drugs.

This can lead to depression and psychological dependence and may result in escalating use of poppers and other drugs.
Psychological withdrawal symptoms may make it difficult to quit using poppers, and poppers mixed with other drugs may cause physical addiction.


How Inhalants Can Be Harmful

Inhalant use may be harmful to physical and mental health. Some inhalants may be used properly to treat angina or cyanide poisoning but when they are abused they can lead to sudden sniffing death syndrome due to cardiac arrest. Inhalants dilate blood vessels, which may also make it easier to contract HIV, especially with unprotected sex.

Abusing inhalants may lower inhibitions and cloud judgment, which could lead to unsafe actions such as engaging in promiscuous sex.

Continued use of poppers may lead a user to engage in casual sex or sexual activities that he may be uncomfortable with, which could cause feelings of guilt or shame. This may make it difficult to have a meaningful relationship, and guilt and depression may also carry over into other areas of an individual’s life.

Combining inhalants with other drugs increases the chance of a dangerous reaction or overdose.  If inhalants are combined with Viagra, there may be an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Abusing drugs may cause changes in heart rhythms or breathing, which can increase the chance of dangerous side effects or fatal overdose of inhalants.

Learn More about LGBTQ-Friendly Addiction Treatment

If you are worried about your inhalant use, please call our toll-free helpline now at 877-345-8494. Our admissions coordinators are available day and night to answer your questions about addiction and help you find gay-friendly treatment options.

Speak with an Admissions Coordinator 877-345-8494