Often criticized by those who do not know it, poppers are a product that is not well known to the general public. Many people are unaware that its history dates back more than a century. And yet, this product, now used by consumers to spice up their sexual relations, was once a drug. 

Once upon a time, there was a drug called poppers… 

It was in 1844, in his French laboratory, that Antoine-Jérôme Balard synthesized alkyl nitrite and obtained amyl nitrite. In other words, the first nitrite used to make poppers,. Amyl nitrite still reigns supreme today, as it is still the most powerful nitrite contained in poppers. 

In the 19th century, poppers were a medicine. Presented in glass ampoules containing a small dose, the poppers take their name from the « pop » sound these ampoules made when they were broken to breathe the escaping vapours. The poppers were then used to treat angina pectoris. Indeed, it is a vasodilator. It dilates the blood vessels, allowing blood and oxygen to circulate better in our body. 

A few years later, Thomas Lauder Brunton, a Scottish chemist, discovered in 1867 that poppers can also help treat people with heart problems and cyanide poisonings. The poppers will then be replaced by the trinitrine. However, over time, some have noticed the stimulating side effects of this vasodilator, especially in men. Poppers help to increase their sexual performance. As blood vessels dilate, muscles relax and sensations are prolonged. Poppers are very volatile products, i.e. they evaporate quickly.  

The poppers and the success of its stimulating power

In 1950, poppers were a great success in the United Kingdom, particularly in the artistic field. Artists are fond of its aphrodisiac effects.  

In the United States, poppers are allowed to be sold over the counter until the first problems, such as burns, appear. The vasodilator is then prohibited for sale and consumption on American soil. Some people start selling this yellowish liquid illegally in sex shops. Most of the time, they are handmade poppers that could be dangerous for consumers’ health. Clifford Hassing, a medical student at the University of California, USA, once again synthesizes alkyl nitrite and created butyl nitrite in 1969. His goal was to continue consuming poppers while circumventing the law prohibiting the consumption and sale of poppers in his country. 

Then banned throughout the country, the American mafia also began to take advantage of this magical liquid. They therefore target the LGBTQ community in the United States through advertisements in gay magazines and sex shops. It is the mafia that gives the name « room odoriser » to poppers (interior perfume in French). This makes it easier for them to continue selling poppers despite the ban. Although it is very useful as an air freshener, poppers are much more useful when having sex in the air to stimulate our carnal desire. 

France in the 1970s « disco scene », clubs and gay circles (clubs, saunas, legal then illegal. Pentyl and butyl only. Today only butyl is prohibited in France and you can find it in many physical and online places (link). 

In 1970, its aphrodisiac effects were no longer a secret. Poppers already have a strong reputation in the middle of the night and the sex industry. Indeed, apart from its stimulating power ideal for intimate use, poppers are an excellent stimulant for festive use. It is not only an aphrodisiac, it is also a euphoric product. 

In France, poppers were present in the crowds of discos, electros, rock, gay clubs, nightclubs and other festive places. 

In 1980, popper consumption reached its peak. His reputation is well established. The Jungle Juice Platinum poppers dominate all club dance floors, as do the majority of propyl poppers that are all the rage at the time. 

From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, popper consumption declined significantly. This coincides with the AIDS epidemic that is decimating the LGBTQ community, the largest consumer of poppers during these hours. A health emergency is declared, the French government and health professionals are engaged in a prevention campaign against the risks of AIDS. The gay community is also mobilizing to fight this scourge that is attacking it from within. 

And today what about the poppers? 

At the end of the 1990s, the poppers came back in force. The electronic, underground evenings that could be seen developing on the banks of the Seines in Paris and elsewhere in the world such as Detroit or Berlin, announced the revival of the poppers. Then, consumed by a larger part of the population, no longer only by the gay community but also by partygoers alias clubbers, poppers become an essential festive product. 

Today, it is a product that appeals to women as much as men, heterosexuals and homosexuals. He no longer has that gayfriendly label. Young people from all walks of life love the euphoric effect of this vasodilator. Poppers is a euphoric liquid, an aphrodisiac, a pleasure product for all. So poppin’ whoever you are!