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What happens now with Amyl/Poppers?

New rules have gone into effect from 1 February for anyone seeking to purchase or use alkyl nitrites, commonly known as ‘amyl’ or ‘poppers’.

There has been a lot of media summarising what’s happened since the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) community consultations and subsequent decision last year. Still, many in the community are unclear about what’s actually going to change.

Here are just a handful of the questions being asked:

Will I still be able to buy it at sex shops?

While some shops may continue to stock/sell it – in light of the recent changes, you may see stores stop selling amyl or poppers altogether.

There are a bunch of alkyl nitrites, how do I know which one I am buying?

Unless you get it from a pharmacy, you don’t know.

Some brands will list contents on the label, but this is unregulated.

Last year, the TGA investigated the active ingredients in several brands of poppers available in Australia. While it’s common to call these products ‘amyl’, most of the products tested by the TGA were found to contain isobutyl nitrite rather that amyl nitrite. Going forward isobutyl nitrite will only be available with a prescription, whereas amyl nitrite could be available over the counter at a pharmacy without a prescription – more on that later though.

I’ve heard some poppers are bad for your eyes, which ones are considered harmful?

There is some evidence to suggest that isopropyl nitrite and N-propyl nitrite poses risks of retinal maculopathy or macular degeneration. As a result, these two alkyl nitrites are now prohibited in Australia.

Can I buy it at a pharmacy?

No, not yet.

The TGA has found amyl nitrite safe enough to allow for it to be purchased from a pharmacist without a prescription. However, it is only available for therapeutic use and must be packaged in containers with child safe closures. Keep in mind – ‘therapeutic use’ can include for use during sex.

Several other alkyl nitrites (including isobutyl nitrite – the one commonly found in poppers in Australia) will only be able to purchase with a prescription and again must be packaged in containers with child safe closures.

But here’s the catch, there are currently no alkyl nitrites products currently approved for sale in Australia. This won’t change until a manufacturer applies to have their product approved for sale by the TGA. This process is both lengthy and expensive.

In theory, a compounding pharmacy, specialising in custom-made pharmaceutical products, could make them if you have a prescription. However, most compounding pharmacies won’t be able to source the pharmaceutical grade ingredients required or the bottles that meet the TGA packaging requirements mentioned.

How do I get a prescription?

You will need to see a doctor, but you’re probably going to need to find a sexual health or gay men’s health specialist. Without a TGA approved product available, you may find it difficult to find a doctor willing to provide a prescription at this stage.

Can I buy it online?

There are products available online, but many of the same issues above will apply. Very few products will list the ingredients, and those that do won’t be approved for therapeutic use. Those that don’t, come with the risk of you not knowing what you’re using. If you buy the product overseas, it is very possibly it could get held up in customs.

Will I be arrested for having amyl or poppers on me?

While being charged with possession of amyl or poppers is incredibly rare, it has happened.

Now since Amyl Nitrite is approved for purchase without a prescription, if you reasonably believe what you have is amyl, you haven’t broken the law.

If I buy it overseas, will I have any issues at customs?

If you’re bringing it on a flight yourself, alkyl nitrites are restricted on commercial flights since they’re a highly flammable liquid.

That aside, alkyl nitrites being brought into the country are subject to many of the same restrictions mentioned above.

If you’re buying it online from overseas and if you have a prescription, a retailer should include a copy of your prescription for the alkyl nitrites to prove it is for therapeutic use.

What if the bottle says ‘do not inhale’? Do I drink it? Where can I get information on using Amyl or Poppers safely?

Never drink amyl or poppers. Thankfully there are some great resources out there. You can find some great information on safe use at a number of websites, including:

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Disclaimer: this article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice.

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