Are Poppers Bad For You? Popular Legal High Inhalant Might Cause Permanent Vision Problems

Poppers, the inhalant popular among teens as a legal way to get a quick high, have been recently linked to permanent eye damage. According to a small study, these inhalants can cause vision problems, such as blurred vision and blind spots, that begin within hours of inhalation and can last for years once users have stopped.

According to the article, now published online in BMJ Ophthalmology, isopropyl nitrite, the main chemical in most poppers, may damage the fovea, a small pit of tightly packed cones in the retina that's mostly responsible for central vision, Popular Science reported. The study is still inconclusive, as it’s not clear whether isopropyl nitrite is the only chemical responsible for eye problems or if quitting popper use will reverse this effect. Still, the results suggest that poppers are not as harmless as they are often marketed, and it may be time to find a more natural buzz.

Read: Runner's High: Running Triggers The Same Brain Reactions As Marijuana, Leading To Post-Workout Euphoria

For the study, researchers reviewed 12 cases of male patients who had gone to Sussex Eye Hospital in the UK between 2013 and 2016 after experiencing vision problems within hours or days of inhaling poppers. The team analyzed samples of the brands of poppers the men reported to have used and suspect that isopropyl nitrite, a chemical found in all the products, may be to blame.

brown Some men reported blurred vision or blind spots after using poppers. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Poppers are often marketed as air fresheners, but when these liquid chemicals are inhaled they can open blood vessels, increase blood flow, and reduce blood pressure while increasing heart rate, The Independent reported. They also give users a short-lived euphoric “high.” Due to these side effects, the drugs are popular among young thrill seekers. They are also popular as a sexual drug due to their side effect of involuntary muscle relaxation.

It’s not clear exactly how this chemical damages the eye, but the team hypothesized that isopropyl nitrite triggers increased production of nitric oxide, which may be toxic to the retina, Popular Science reported. The results are not conclusive enough to advise consumers which brands of poppers are most dangerous, or whether to give up the habit alltogether. However, if you are looking for a way to get “high” without the strange health side-effects, try going for a run instead. Research has suggested the euphoria from endurance exercise triggers the same receptors in the brain as marijuana.

Source: Rewbury R, Hughes E, Purbrick R, PriorS, Baron M. Poppers: legal highs with questionable contents? A case series of poppers maculopathy. BMJ Ophthalmology . 2017

See Also:

Common Eye Myths: Does Wearing Glasses Improve Eyesight Or Worsen Vision?

Vision Problems: Eye Implant May Correct Age-Related Presbyopia, Delay The Need For Reading Glasses

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