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Australia decides not to ban poppers

Range of poppers

The body which regulates therapeutic goods in Australia has decided not to ban poppers outright.

The Therapeutic Goods Adminstration (TGA) announced on Thursday (6 June) the outcome of its proposal to ban the sale, use or possession of poppers.

People inhale poppers for either recreational purposes or more popularly in the LGBTI community to enhance sex. They can be a number of different chemical compounds collectively known as alkyl nitrites.

In September last year, the TGA published an interim decision recommending to move nitrite inhalants onto Schedule 9 of the Poisons Standard – the same schedule as heroin.

But, on Thursday, while the TGA decided against an outright ban of all versions of the drug, they ruled for restrictions on different types.

The most common chemicals found in Australian poppers (isoamyl, butyl, isobutyl, and octyl nitrites) remain as prescription-only medicine. You’ll need to go to a doctor to obtain these types of poppers.

The TGA, however, downgraded another popular compound, amyl nitrate. This, Australians will be able to buy at a pharmacy without a prescription.

But, purchasers will need to talk to the pharmacist about the drug to obtain a bottle. What’s more, poppers must be sold in child-proof bottles.

The TGA banned Isopropyl nitrite, which may cause blindness, outright.

What does this mean?

Poppers campaigners are celebrating that the Australian government did not ban poppers.


But, most of the poppers Austrlia consumes are of the prescription-only kind. It may, therefore, take a while for the industry to switch to producing amyl nitrate poppers.

And, even then, poppers will not readily available.

The TGA investigator admitted that ‘changes which would remove alkyl nitrites from adult shops or sex on premises venues may adversely affect members of the LGBTQI community in terms of sexual health, sociocultural and psycho-social harm’ in its ruling.

But, it argued, ‘the supply of alkyl nitrites through a qualified health practitioner would mean that there is an opportunity for counseling and education on safe use and other related public health issues.’

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Author: Rik Glauert