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People Are Drinking Poppers, Mistaking Them For Energy Drinks

Please don't do this, popper poisoning does not sound like fun.


Tom Hale


Tom Hale

Senior Journalist

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

A row bottles contain poppers liquid drug.

Poppers are often sold in small bottles and marketed as things like “air freshener,” “liquid incense,” or “room deodorizer”.

Image credit: UK Home Office/Public Domain

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has, once again, pleaded with Americans to stop chugging poppers. The health agency has revealed it is continuing to receive reports of people falling seriously ill and even dying after drinking poppers, mistaking them for energy shot drinks.

Poppers are a funky-smelling liquid that typically contains amyl nitrate, a chemical that dilates blood vessels when inhaled, often used as a recreational drug. By sniffing the fumes emitted by the liquid, people experience a lightheaded high that’s often used to enhance their sexual experience. As a potent vasodilator and muscle relaxant, the drug makes it easier to receive anal sex. 


The FDA has stressed that it is against consumers inhaling these products as they haven’t been officially evaluated for safe use. However, it is also warning that people are accidentally drinking the liquid because the bottles are similar to energy-shot beverages commonly sold at gas stations and convenience stores.

“A single mistake can prove fatal,” the FDA tweeted on May 24.

“We continue to receive reports of people dying or being severely injured after consuming poppers that resemble, and often mistaken for, popular energy shots. Drinking or inhaling poppers seriously jeopardizes your health."


The health authority initially warned consumers about this problem back in 2021, but their latest tweet indicates that people are still making the potentially fatal error.

“Make no mistake, ingesting or inhaling poppers seriously jeopardizes your health,” Judy McMeekin, Pharm. D., Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, said in 2021. “These chemicals can be caustic and damage the skin or other tissues they come in contact with, cause difficulty breathing, extreme drops in blood pressure, decreases in blood oxygen levels, seizures, heart arrhythmia, coma, and death. Do not ingest or inhale under any circumstances."

A medical case study from 2021 highlights the potential danger that swallowing poppers can pose. After consuming five drops of poppers at a sex shop, a 69-year-old man collapsed and was rushed to the hospital in an “extreme, life-threatening” condition. 

Along with dizziness and confusion, he was suffering from a severely inflamed windpipe. He was also experiencing an acute case of methemoglobinemia, the potentially deadly build-up of methemoglobin in the blood. The man managed to recover, but he was fortunate to receive medical care before things turned too sour. 


Part of the problem is that the poppers are misleadingly marketed to disguise their use as a party drug. It’s generally sold in small bottles and marketed as things like “air freshener,” “liquid incense,” or “room odorizer” with catchy brand names like “rush,” “liquid gold,” and “buzz”. 

“Don’t be fooled. These poppers, often purchased online or in novelty stores, are unapproved products and should not be inhaled or ingested, regardless of how they are packaged, labeled, or displayed,” McMeekin added. “Used as a recreational drug, they can cause serious health issues. They are not worth your life.”


healthHealth and Medicinehealthmedicine
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