COMMON NAMES: amys, pearls, poppers, snappers

If sex is your thing, you may have already heard about amyl nitrite, or "poppers" as they are called in illicit circles,

This substance has been used legally for more than a century for the treatment of angina pectoris (heart spasm). When taken it quickly dilates blood vessels leading to the heart. The drug has also been used, less frequently, for the relief of certain types of asthma attacks.

A prescription drug, amyl nitrite is a clear yellow volatile liquid, with a fruity odor not unlike that of rotten apples. It is marketed in, glass ampules, containing .2 milliliter, which have to be broken open immediately before use. Once the ampule is broken, the drug must be inhaled immediately. For potential reuse the ampule is often placed in an airtight container to capture its potent fumes. Its effect, which lasts only two to three minutes, begins in about thirty seconds.

The first feelings the user experiences are those of relaxation and a breakdown of normal inhibitions. The drug is usually inhaled during sex, particularly at the point immediately preceding orgasm. Users claim that orgasm can be lengthened and strengthened with the help of a popper. At the very least, a great euphoric feeling of warmth and thrilling sensuousness generally occurs. Visual and perceptual distortions, as well as alterations in consciousness, may result.

Still another effect resulting from the use of amyl nitrite is the relaxation of the involuntary muscles, including the sphincter, which has made it popular among gays.

While there are no really dangerous aftereffects from amyl. nitrite, some users do experience headache, flushing, nausea, and/or vomiting. Death from nitrite poisoning is virtually nonexistent. Glaucoma sufferers should not use amyl nitrite. People with low blood pressure should avoid the drug because one of its effects is the further lowering of blood pressure.

A number of enterprising manufacturers are currently marketing butyl nitrite, similar to amyl nitrite in effect but different in chemical rings, under a variety of brand names such as Aroma, Locker Room, Rush, and Bullet. They are sold in liquid form as room deodorizers to avoid problems with the Food and Drug Administration, but reports indicate most have vapors capable of producing the same disoriented, flushed, short-lived high as amyl nitrite.