What are mini poppers
'Poppers' can cause irreversible damage to your eyes
A new generation of the sex drug 'poppers' can cause irreversible damage to the back of the eyes, scientists warn.
Just one use of the legal highs can trigger the deterioration of the fovea - the part of the retina responsible for the clearest vision.
Despite being designed to create feelings of euphoria, the main chemical ingredient can trigger side effects.
These include blurriness and blind spots, and can occur within hours being inhaled, British researchers claim.
Experts argue that the safety of the recreational drug, used widely in the homosexual community, needs to be reviewed.
Just one use of the legal highs, which are designed to create feelings of euphoria, can trigger the deterioration
The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 aimed to ban the production and sale of all 'legal highs' in the UK from April 2016.
However, the colorless liquids with strong odors were considered exempt as they don't directly affect the central nervous system.
They are believed to be the fourth most popular recreational drug after cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy in the UK.
The principal chemical ingredient of the drug was replaced with isopropyl nitrite in 2006 after being found to be a carcinogenic.
But eye problems have emerged as a little-known side effect since the chemical composition was changed.
Researchers assessed visual damage in 12 men who had used the drugs and were admitted to Sussex Eye Hospital in Brighton.
Inhaling one of the main chemicals in poppers can cause blurriness and blind spots within just hours of being inhaled, researchers claim
All of the patients had reported some form of visual disturbance, with blurriness and blind spots being the most common.
Study author Dr Rebecca Rewbury concluded: 'The cases presented here suggest that certain brands of poppers may be more toxic to the retina than others.
SOME OF THE CASES ...
Three patients had used poppers for 20 years or more, only noticing symptoms after switching to a new brand.
One of these men developed a progressive central scotoma (blind spot) after using jungle juice, containing isopropyl nitrite. Previous use of Jungle Juice Plus, without isopropyl nitrite, wasn't associated with any visual disturbances.
The second patient noticed symptoms after using Berlin XXX containing isopropyl nitrite, for the first time, having previously suffered no ill effects when using other brands.
The third patient had frequently used isobutyl nitrites in the 1980s with no visual side effects, but after heavy use for the first time in years, developed scotoma.
'Chemical analysis of the products tested suggests that isopropyl nitrite is responsible for poppers maculopathy, although the mechanism of this is unknown.
'We suspect a high rate of poppers usage among the Brighton population; this is of increasing concern, both because of the mounting body of evidence suggesting that poppers can have serious effects on central vision and because of users and healthcare professionals who may be unaware of the risk.
'While macula changes often resolve on cessation of use, symptoms can be prolonged and the visual effects of chronic use of the newer brands of poppers are unknown.
'For these reasons, it seems appropriate that the level of harm associated with poppers should be reassessed.'
Eight of the products the men used were chemically analyzed: Platinum, Hard-on, Rush, Berlin XXX Hardcore, Liquid Gold, Jungle Juice, and two Jungle Juice Plus varieties.
Six of the brands linked to visual symptoms contained isopropyl nitrite, according to the study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
While Jungle Juice Plus varieties, used without visual side effects in one case, contained other forms of nitrites and related compounds.
Most patients fully or mostly recovered several months after stopping drug use, although symptoms didn't clear up in all of them.
POPPERS: THE CONTROVERSIAL DRUG USED TO IMPROVE SEX
Poppers - or alkyl nitrites - are sold as room odorisers to bypass the law preventing them being used for human consumption.
The substance, sold for £ 5 a bottle, is a muscle relaxant, which heightens pleasure during sex.
Users say poppers give the user a pleasurable 20-second high - but sometimes followed by intense headaches. The liquid drug can cause euphoria and dizziness but wears off quickly.
One user told Vice the sensation after taking it was like being 'lightly asphyxiated' - because it dilates blood vessels and causing a drop in blood pressure leaving users light headed.
Doses are inhaled and typically sold in gay clubs and bars, and 'head' shops selling drug paraphernalia. They can also be purchased online.
In Britain it is illegal to sell them for human consumption but they can be sold as 'odorizers' - a tool to add smells to a gas.
Some countries, including Canada, have already banned poppers outright.
Common side effects include headaches and poppers can sometimes cause skin burns.
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