John Lauritsen and Hank Wilson
design by Wulf.
in collaboration with the Committee
to Monitor Poppers
Francisco, CA 94102
publication supersedes POPPERS & AIDS, by
John Lauritsen and Hank Wilson, Second Edition
(July 1985). The earlier work has
been revised and considerably expanded.
1986 by Pagan Press
in the USA
of Congress Catalog Card No. 86-60791
INHALANTS: A BIBLIOGRAPHY
POPPERS INDUSTRY AND ITS INFLUENCE
Case Against LAV/HTLV-III's Being
Sufficient, or Necessary
Cause of AIDS
POPPERS & AIDS
use poppers. This is the first and the last thing to be said
are a liquid mixture of isobutyl nitrite and other chemicals,
packaged in small bottles under such names as “Rush”,
“Ram”, “Thunderbolt”, “Locker Room”,
and “Crypt Tonight” (gallows humor?). Poppers are
advertised and sold to gay men, who make up virtually the entire
market for the commodity. When inhaled just before orgasm, poppers
seem to enhance and prolong the sensation. With regular use, they
become a sexual crutch, and many gay men are incapable of having sex,
even solitary masturbation, without the aid of poppers.
have become an accepted, even obligatory part of the gay male
lifestyle in some cities. The odor of poppers is ubiquitous in New
York City bars, backrooms and baths. At gay discos, men shuffle
around on the dance floor, zombie-like, holding popper bottles under
subject of poppers is one which arouses intense emotions. Ordinarily
rational men become hysterical when it is suggested that the nitrite
inhalants are harmful to the health and may play a role in causing
AIDS. This is understandable. Since poppers have become necessary for
them to function sexually, giving up poppers would seem, at least in
the beginning, like giving up sex itself.
every drug in the U.S. must undergo extensive testing before it can
be sold legally. Not poppers. They are subject to no testing or
quality control whatsoever. In 1981, the Stanford Medical
Laboratories tested some samples of different brands of poppers, and
found them to contain kerosene, hydrochloric acid, and sulfur
dioxide, among other impurities.
biggest money-maker in the gay business world is believed to be the
poppers industry. Gross profits were estimated to be $50 million in
1978, and may well be double or triple that by now. (Sigell 1978)
manufacturers have impudently labelled their product a “room
odorizer”, with the astounding consequence that the federal
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the California and New York
Departments of Health, and other government regulatory agencies have
intransigently looked the other way. What a farce! Not even an idiot
would use poppers as a “room odorizer”. Everyone knows
that poppers are inhaled as a drug. A large and growing body of
medical research indicates that poppers are dangerous, and almost
certainly implicated in causing AIDS. And yet the government agencies
blithely accept the lie that poppers are only a harmless “room
have the appropriate government agencies refused to regulate poppers
in any way? We don't know, but it's doubtful that they really
believe the “room odorizer” marketing
If a drug like butyl nitrite can be marketed as a “room
odorizer”, then anything could be sold as anything. Heroin
could be sold as a mosquito-bite remedy (“for external use
only”). Live hand grenades could be sold as “paperweights”.
is commonplace that government regulatory agencies come to be
by the very industries they were intended to regulate. One recalls
the many recent scandals pertaining to the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) or, a couple of decades ago, the subservience of the
U.S. Department of Health to the tobacco industry. The poppers
industry has a large war chest, and they know how to “influence”
are now illegal in New York State. On June 18, Governor Cuomo signed
into law Assembly Bill #890, making it illegal to possess or sell
“hazardous inhalants”, including amyl and butyl nitrite,
that cause intoxication.
can be anticipated that some gay men will protest the new law as an
intrusion of the state into their private lives, an infringement of
their right to pursue chemical pleasures. Such
protests would be misguided. Anyone who has studied the medical
literature on poppers can only applaud the New York State legislature
and Governor Cuomo for having done the right thing. Poppers are
dangerous, and they should never have been sold legally in the first
as co-factor for AIDS
present, most if not all AIDS researchers believe that an important
role in causing AIDS is played by a virus named
Lymphadenopathy-Associated virus (LAV) by the French scientists who
isolated it in 1983. (The same virus was “rediscovered”
in 1984 by an American government scientist, Robert Gallo, who called
it “HTLV-III”, by which name it is known, for political
reasons, in the U.S.)
LAV virus has so far failed to satisfy Koch's postulates; therefore,
its role in causing AIDS remains a matter of conjecture. The
designation, “AIDS virus”, is not scientifically
justified; the most one can say at present is that the LAV virus is
associated with AIDS: perhaps as
primary cause, perhaps as a
subsidiary co-factor, or perhaps only as a harmless marker.1
several years, government agencies have discouraged any approaches to
AIDS other than the single-infectious-agent hypothesis. Researchers
who advanced drug abuse or multifactorial hypotheses tended to be
ostracized and unfunded. After Robert Gallo's “discovery”
of HTLV-III, it became obligatory to regard this as the primary or
even sole cause of the Syndrome.
preliminary testing has shown that up to 80% of urban gay men have
LAV antibodies, and yet only a minute percentage of them have
developed AIDS. It would seem that LAV is not sufficient by itself to
cause AIDS, that co-factors (like drug abuse) may be necessary for
AIDS to develop.
AIDS researchers now believe that mere exposure to the putative virus
is not sufficient to cause AIDS-that a necessary precondition may be
an already weakened immune system. Attention is being focussed on
possible co-factors in the lifestyles of gay men and IV drug users,
the two major risk groups.
effects of amyl nitrite (the pharmaceutical predecessor of “Rush”,
“Locker Room”, etc.) have been known for years. With the
outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, medical researchers began to suspect
that poppers may play a role in causing AIDS in gay men —
either as the primary cause or in conjunction with other factors.
gay men, physicians, or AIDS researchers seem to be aware how
extensive and powerful the evidence against poppers is. Anyone who
has studied even a portion of the medical literature can only shake
his head in amazement that this dubious commodity has not been banned
— except in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and, as of June 1985, New
York State. (In Massachusetts, where poppers have been banned for
years, only 378 cases of AIDS had been reported as of 31 March 1986.
In contrast, there had been 6265 cases in New York, where poppers had
been sold legally in sex shops, baths, discos, and even neighborhood
evidence against poppers has continued to accumulate. For several
years, major articles in the most prestigious medical journals in the
world have discussed the immunosuppressive and other harmful effects
of poppers, and their possible role in causing AIDS. The question is
no longer whether, but rather how much of a role
poppers play in causing AIDS. Are poppers a relatively minor or a
very major co-factor? So far as the effect of poppers on the health,
there is no doubt that they are harmful. For some individuals, even a
single episode of snorting poppers can be life-threatening.
section that follows will summarize medical findings on poppers.
However, the reader should bear in mind that this is a summary of
hundreds of pages of reports and articles. Researchers concerned with
the poppers connection should consult the Annotated Bibliography in
Section II of this monograph.
evidence against poppers comes from many different types of studies,
and is remarkably consistent. Whether from epidemiological, mice, or
laboratory studies, the data support each other in demonstrating the
harmful properties of poppers and implicating poppers in the etiology
of AIDS. Despite rumors which originated with the poppers industry in
1983, there is no evidence that could reasonably be interpreted as
we know very little about the characteristics of people with AIDS.
Most of the published epidemiological studies of gay men with AIDS
were conducted several years ago, and had serious shortcomings. CDC
studies, in particular, tended to be poorly designed, executed, and
analyzed. We cannot assume that gay men diagnosed as having AIDS in
1986 have the same profile as the first 50-100 gay men with AIDS, who
were studied in 1981-1982.
the absence of recent, large-scale, well-conducted epidemiological
studies, one may give a cautious hearing to less “scientific”
evidence, such as reports from those who have known many people with
AIDS. Such evidence should be evaluated critically, though it may
actually be worth more than the quantitative “data” from
a poorly executed survey.
are a few epidemiological highlights:
96-100% of the
AIDS used poppers, usually quite heavily. These men were also heavy
users of many other “recreational” drugs, including
amphetamines (“speed”), cocaine, heroin, quaaludes
(“ludes”), LSD, barbiturates (“downers”),
and ethyl chloride. (Friedman-Kien 1982, Haverkos 1982/1985, Jaffe
implicated poppers as a statistically significant and important risk
factor for the development of AIDS. (Marmor 1982, Newell 1985)
In gay men who do
have AIDS, popper usage is correlated with immunological
abnormalities similar to those found in AIDS patients. (Goedert 1982)
Among men with
lymph nodes (all of whom had used poppers), heavy popper users were
more likely to develop AIDS. (Mathur-Wagh 1984/1986)
A recent study
groups of gay men who were antibody positive to the LAV (HTLVIII)
virus: people who were clinically sick with AIDS, and people who were
not sick. Usage of the nitrite inhalants proved to be one of the most
important risk factors for developing AIDS, and especially, Kaposi's
sarcoma. The heavier the popper usage, the greater the risk. (Moss
Leaders of People
AIDS, who have known hundreds of PWA's, state that most of them were
heavily into drugs, and all of them used poppers.
W.J. Wallace, the
of the Mineshaft, stated in an interview, “I really don't know
anybody who's had AIDS who hasn't used drugs.”
Finally, there is
crucial point that for 5 years AIDS, unlike a truly communicable
disease, has remained compartmentalized. Gay men accounted for
three-quarters of the AIDS cases 5 years ago, and account for the
same proportion now in 1986. Poppers are
used by gay men.
are used by very, very few straight men, and by virtually no women at
different experiments have demonstrated that poppers are mutagenic.
That is, they cause genes to mutate. (Quinto 1980, Osterloh 1984) It
is very unwise to inhale mutagenic substances, as almost all such
substances are also carcinogenic. If nothing were known about poppers
other than these two studies, they alone would be sufficient warrant
for the categorical recommendation: Do not use poppers.
nitrites like poppers combine with other substances to form deadly,
cancer-causing compounds (N-nitroso compounds, nitrosamines —
Jϕrgensen 1982, Newell 1984, Osterloh 1984). Danish scientists
Karl Jϕrgensen and Sven-Olov Lawesson describe N-nitroso
compounds as being so deadly as to have “the capacity to induce
cancer after only one dose”.
AIDS researchers have suggested that poppers may play a role in
causing the cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, in gay male AIDS patients. KS
is found in about half of the gay men with AIDS, but in a very small
percentage of PWA's from the other risk groups. It is gay men who use
poppers, not straight IV drug users or Haitians.
cell studies (in vitro)
different laboratory experiments have shown that exposure of human
blood cells to amyl, butyl or isobutyl nitrite causes sharp decreases
in immunological function, as well as striking alterations in cell
structure (“cytoplasmic protrusions with pseudopod-like
extensions”, etc.). (Marmer 1982, Hersh 1983, Jacobs 1983)
research team concluded:
abnormalities can help in explaining the role of amyl nitrite
cellular toxicity in immunosuppressed male homosexuals.” (Marmer 1982)
research team stated:
in vitro studies strongly suggest that the inhalant nitrites may
indeed be dangerous, and their use should be condemned by those
physicians who treat patients who use these drugs regularly.” (Hersh
evidence against poppers comes from experiments on mice, which have
firmly established that poppers suppress the immune system and are
otherwise harmful in vivo (in a living animal).
found that exposure to amyl or isobutyl nitrite, either through
injection or inhalation, caused immunological deficiency in mice.
(Watson 1982, Neefe 1983, Lotzova 1984, Gangadharam 1985, and Ortiz
research team concluded:
results of these studies indicate that immunosuppression should be
added to the other reasons why isobutyl nitrite should not be used by
man.” (Lotzova 1984)
of these studies further found that the mice exposed to nitrite
vapors suffered gross pathological lung damage, weight loss, and,
most significantly, reversed T-cell ratios:
studies do show that chronic inhalation of AN [amyl nitrite] can lead
to an altered T-cell helper/suppressor ratio, the same phenomenon
which occurs in AIDS victims. It does look, then, that there seems to
be a link between AN inhalation and cellular immunity depression.”
In a sixth study,
exposed to low dosages of isobutyl nitrite vapors developed
methemoglobinemia and thymic atrophy. (Lynch 1985) The first finding
is relevant, since poppers are known to cause methemoglobinemia in
humans (Horne 1979, Guss 1985) and since anemia is typically part of
the AID Syndrome. (Methemoglobinemia is a form of anemia where the
blood turns brown and where the oxygen supply to critical organs is
reduced.) The finding of “thymic atrophy” is suggestive.
Autopsies of AIDS victims show the thymus gland to be destroyed in
100% of the cases. No thymus gland, no immune system. Obviously any
drug that destroys the thymus gland will play a role in causing AIDS.
A seventh mice
not be carried through to completion. Regardless of whether the
isobutyl nitrite was ingested, inhaled, or injected, all of the mice
died. (Maickel 1982)
of amyl nitrite caused a depletion of the helper (T4) T-cells in mice
(Ortiz 1985) and in humans (Gerblich 1984). Some researchers consider
this condition — a reversed T-cell ratio — to be the
primary immunological defect in AIDS patients.
aside from the risk of getting AIDS, poppers are known to be
hazardous to the health in many different ways. Poppers cause Heinz
body cell anemia, methemoglobinemia, lung damage, serious skin burns,
death or brain damage from cardiovascular collapse or stroke,
dizziness, and headaches. Poppers have been used successfully to
commit suicide (by drinking) and murder (victim gagged with sock
soaked with poppers). (Sigell 1978, Horne 1979, Haley 1980, Dixon
1981, Romeril 1981, Guss 1985, Lynch 1985, Ortiz 1985)
chronology is suggestive: Poppers became a fad among gay men
beginning in 1972, just seven years before the first cases of AIDS
began to be diagnosed. (Newell 1984)
* * *
is obvious from the above that poppers are dangerous and should not
be used by humans or other animals. In the context of the AIDS
epidemic, when keeping one's immunological system up to par is a life
or death matter, the only sane course of action is to stop using
with considerable human resources and millions of dollars committed
to finding a solution, it may very well take many years before
researchers are able to describe, with scientific rigor, how AIDS is
caused. In the meantime, it is imperative that intelligent guidelines
for reducing the risk of getting AIDS, based on existing knowledge,
be given now. Lives are at stake.
light of what is known now, gay men should continue to follow “safe
sex” guidelines. In conservative terms, this would mean either
practising celibacy or limiting sex to simple body contact and mutual
masturbation. The simple rule for safe sex is: “On me, not in
the same time, it is crucial for gay men to bolster their immune
systems by living in a healthy way: eating nutritious food, getting
enough sleep and rest, reducing stress, and getting plenty of
exercise. They should avoid the use of any and all “recreational
— especially including
for Disease Control. “An Evaluation of the Immunotoxic
Potential of Isobutyl Nitrite”. MMWR, pp. 457-58, 64, 9
news item briefly described an experiment in which mice were exposed
to isobutyl nitrite vapors, in various concentrations, for time
periods ranging from 3 to 18 weeks. It asserted, “None of the
animals exposed to IBN showed any evidence of immunotoxic reactions”.
poppers industry used this little item as the basis for an
advertising campaign which claimed that poppers had been
“exonerated”, and that there was no connection between
poppers and AIDS.
a report on the mice study was finally published two years later, it
became clear that the MMWR account had been grossly
misleading. The dosages administered were too low to test the
hypothesis that poppers might be immunosuppressive or otherwise
harmful to men who inhaled them as “recreational” drugs.
The study had selected exposures “to mimic an occupational
exposure setting...rather than to conduct brief, high level exposures
to imitate exposure by nitrite abusers.” (See entries under
Lewis and Lynch.)
should be noted that other mice experiments (Gangadharam, Lotzova,
Maickel, Neefe, Ortiz, and Watson) have demonstrated that mice
exposed to alkyl nitrites do develop
as well as being harmed in other ways.
anonymous author(s) of the MMWR piece stress that the nitrite
inhalants are not harmless, for “these drugs do have toxic
effects”, and they proceed to list a number of toxic effects,
ranging from “dizziness” to “sudden death”.
They add that “their role as a cofactor in some of the
illnesses found in this syndrome has not been ruled out.”
James E. “Poppers: The Writing on the Wall”. New York
Native, p. 9, 4-17 June 1984.
article reports on recent findings that tend further to implicate the
nitrite inhalants as playing a role in causing AIDS.
popular media are currently touting the LAV/HTLV-3 virus as being the
only cause of AIDS. However, D'Eramo reports that one of the
French scientists who discovered the virus puts forward a
multifactorial model of causation:
J.C. Chermann (a member of the Parisian Pasteur Institute team that
discovered the probable viral cause of AIDS - LAV-HTLV-3) presented a
model for the development of AIDS during a lecture on May 22 at
Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City. He believes that
the T-cell population must be repeatedly stimulated with foreign
antigens (like LAV, sexually transmitted diseases, and drugs) for
full-blown AIDS to develop. Repeated usage of poppers may play an
important role in the antagonistic stimulation of
the helper T-cell population. According to Dr. Chermann's model, very
limited or infrequent exposures to LAV would not in themselves lead
to the development of full blown AIDS.”
untoward effects of inhaling poppers are becoming clearly recognized,
especially as a co-factor in the development of AIDS.”
D.S.; Reisch, R.F.; and Santinga, B.S. “Fatal Methemoglobinemia
Resulting from Ingestion of Isobutyl Nitrite, a ‘Room Odorizer’
Widely Used for Recreational Purposes”. Journal of Forensic
Sciences, pp. 587-93, July 1981.
clinical account of a 30-year old black male who died from “acute
nitrite poisoning”. He had apparently swallowed some poppers
liquid. Contains a description of unsuccessful emergency procedures
used, results of the autopsy, as well as a discussion of other butyl
nitrite-related fatalities and the various hazards of alkyl nitrite
David T. “Opportunistic Infections and Kaposi's Sarcoma in
Homosexual Men”. New England Journal of Medicine, pp.
146567, 10 December 1981.
lead editorial poses the question of why AIDS is apparently new,
since both viruses and homosexuality are at least as old as history:
new factor may have distorted the host-parasite relation. So-called
‘recreational’ drugs are one possibility. They are widely
used in the large cities where most of these cases have occurred, and
the only patients in the series reported in this issue who were not
homosexual were drug users.... Perhaps one or more of these
recreational drugs is an immunosuppressive agent. The leading
candidates are the nitrites, which are now commonly inhaled to
intensify orgasm.... Let us postulate that the combined effects of
persistent viral infection plus an adjuvant drug cause
immunosuppression in some genetically predisposed men.”
Alvin E.; Laubenstein, Linda J.; Rubenstein, Pablo; et al.
“Disseminated Kaposi's Sarcoma in Homosexual Men”. Annals
of Internal Medicine. pp. 693-700, June 1982.
study of 19 men with KS. “All of the patients had used amyl or
butyl nitrite inhalants.”
P.R.J.; Peruman, V.K.; et al. “Immunosuppressive Action of
Isobutyl Nitrite” (Presentation to the International Congress
on Immunopharmacology, Florence, Italy, May 1985.) (Also press
release reported in various newspapers)
at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine
in Denver found evidence confirming long-held suspicions that the
“recreational” use of nitrite inhalants (poppers) greatly
increases the risk of developing the Acquired Immune Deficiency
studies involved exposing mice to RUSH\ (isobutyl nitrite) “by
inhalation in a closed environment, simulating the practice of the
homosexual patient”. One group of mice was exposed to RUSH\
daily; another group, every other day; and a third group, twice per
week. According to the principal investigator, P.R.J. Gangadharam,
PhD, after breathing isobutyl nitrite the animals became highly
susceptible to disease and death caused by Mycobacterium
intracellulare. This group
of organisms, related to tuberculosis,
is among the leading killers of people with AIDS. Mice of the same
breed, who were exposed to the bacteria but not to the drug, had far
lower illness and mortality rates.
Denver scientists also linked specific, dose-related immune-system
damage to isobutyl nitrite exposure:
animals exposed to the compound had decreased numbers of lymphocytes
and macrophages, blood cells that are important in defending the body
Gangadharam made the point that only a very small percentage of
people exposed to the putative AIDS virus (LAV) become sick, and even
fewer develop AIDS. “This makes is very important to
investigate other possible contributing factors.”
believe our findings establish that inhaling isobutyl nitrite should
be considered dangerous to homosexuals and others at high risk for
Adi A.; Campbell, Ann E.; Schuyler, Mark R. “Changes in T-cell
Lymphocyte Subpopulations After Antigenic Bronchial Provocation in
Asthmatics”. New England Journal of Medicine, pp.
1349-52, May 1984.
this study it was found that some kinds of inhaled agents caused a
depletion of the helper (T4) T-cells. Some researchers consider this
condition--a reversed T-cell ratio--to be the primary immune defect
in AIDS patients.
a communication to Dr. D'Eramo of the New York Native, Dr.
Gerblich stated: “The same results have been found upon
inhalation of amyl-nitrites.”
James J.; Neuland, Carolyn Y.; Wallen, William C.; et al. “Amyl
Nitrite May Alter T Lymphocytes in Homosexual Men”. The
Lancet, pp. 412-16, 20 February 1982.
study collected clinical, virological, and immunological data on 2
homosexual men with KS and on 15 healthy homosexual volunteers. Both
men with KS had been regular amyl/butyl nitrite users. Of the men who
did not have KS, 8 were regular nitrite users (1-20 times per month)
and the other 7 were not (i.e., fewer than 10 doses ever).
abnormalities were found in all of the nitrite users, but in only one
of the non-users. The authors conclude:
data suggest that nitrites may be immunosuppressive in the setting of
repeated viral antigenic stimulation and may contribute to the high
frequency of KS and opportunistic infections in homosexual men.”
David A.; Normann, Sven A.; and Manoguerra, Anthony S. “Clinically
Significant Methemoglobinemia from Inhalation of Isobutyl Nitrite”.
American Journal of Emergency Medicine, pp. 46-47, January
case report of a 21-year old gay man who almost died from
methemoglobinemia which resulted from an episode of inhaling poppers.
The night before admission to the emergency room he had swallowed
methaqualone (Quaalude), had inhaled cocaine, and had inhaled
'Hardware' (isobutyl nitrite) every 2-3 minutes for a period of 5-6
hours. His skin was purplish (“cyanotic”), and he had
“severe headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and shortness
of breath.” “Arterial blood gas samples were extremely
dark.... Methemoglobin was 37% of all
measures were successful; the patient survived, and was
found to have normal methemoglobin reductase levels.
with the patient reported by Horne and associates [see Horne entry],
our patient presented with severe systemic symptoms, had a
methemoglobin level of more than twice that previously reported, and
had normal methemoglobin reductase levels. In addition, our patient
presented more than 12 hours after his last exposure to nitrites.
Considering that the estimated half-life of methemoglobin
is 55 minutes, this suggests peak levels of methemoglobin were
probably considerably greater than those measured.”
report is important for two reasons: First, it demonstrates that
life-threatening methemoglobinemia can result from butyl nitrite
inhalation, even in an individual whose body has a normal ability to
reduce methemoglobin. Second, it strongly suggests the possibility of
drug interaction effects, whereby the
combination of butyl
nitrite plus one or more other “recreational” drugs may
be much more deadly than any one of these drugs by itself.
Thomas H. “Review of the Physiological Effects of Amyl, Butyl,
and Isobutyl Nitrites”. Clinical Toxicology, pp. 317-29,
a two-page summary of “human toxicology” re nitrites. 115
references listed. A few highlights:
toxic effects of amyl nitrite inhalation include rapid flushing of
the face, pulsation in the head, cyanosis, confusion, vertigo, motor
unrest, weakness, yellow vision, hypotension, soft thready pulse, and
fainting. Accidental prolonged inhalation of amyl nitrite has
resulted in death from respiratory failure.... Fatalities have
occurred in workers exposed to organic nitrates after strenuous
exercise 1 to 2 days after cessation of exposure. Nitrite causes a
loss of tone of the vascular bed and pooling and trapping of blood in
the veins of the lower extremities, resulting in marked arteriolar
constriction and the induction of anoxemia in vital tissues, causing
death. Hypertrophy of the left ventricle occurs in workers handling
nitroglycerine, and they suffer from shortness of breath on undue
exertion. The formation of methemoglobin by aliphatic nitrite
interferes with oxyhemoglobin, causing anoxia of vital organs....The
use of volatile nitrites to enhance sexual performance and pleasure
can result in syncope and death by cardiovascular collapse.”
Harry W.; Pinsky, Paul F. et al. “Disease Manifestation among
Homosexual Men with Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS): A
possible role of nitrites in Kaposi's sarcoma”. A study of the
CDC AIDS Activity, Center for Infectious Diseases, 1982. Abridged
version published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, pp.
103-08, October-December 1985.
of the first cases of homosexual men with AIDS were classified
according to disease manifestation: Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) only,
Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) only, or both KS and PCP. Each
group was compared to the others as well as to controls from an
earlier CDC study. (See Jaffe 1983.)
researchers concluded that “using nitrite inhalants may be
associated with the occurrence of KS in patients with AIDS.”
Haverkos study gives us important information on the lifestyle
characteristics of the homosexual men who were diagnosed as having
AIDS in 1981 and early 1982. Dr. Haverkos and his colleagues found a
high degree of drug abuse. Among the total 87 gay men with AIDS, the
following levels of drug usage were recorded: Nitrite inhalants
(poppers) - 97%, marijuana - 93%, amphetamines - 68%, cocaine - 66%,
LSD - 65%, quaaludes - 59%, ethyl chloride - 48%, barbiturates - 32%,
heroin - 12%, any drug intravenously - 17%.
drug usage was the rule: 58% of the subjects used five or more
different “street drugs”. Furthermore, the 87 gay men
tended to use their drugs heavily. Following are the median numbers
of different days on which the various drugs were used: Marijuana -
720, nitrite inhalants - 384, amphetamines - 120, barbiturates - 96,
quaaludes - 60, LSD - 36.
Evan M.; Reuben, James M.; Bogerd, Hal; et al. “Effect of the
Recreational Agent Isobutyl Nitrite on Human Blood Leukocytes and on
in Vitro Interferon Production”. Cancer Research, pp.
1365-71, March 1983.
effect of isobutyl nitrite on cellular immunological functions was
studied. The experimenters found that minute quantities of isobutyl
nitrite caused irreversible impairment of immunological function.
speculate that these immunosuppressive effects, combined with the
ability of nitrites to convert amines to nitrosamines, may be related
to the development of opportunistic infections and Kaposi's sarcoma
in homosexuals who use this agent.”
Hersh and his
colleagues further state:
in vitro studies strongly suggest that the inhalant nitrites may
indeed be dangerous, and their use should be condemned by those
physicians who treat patients who use these drugs regularly.”
III, McDonald K; Waterman, Michael R.; et al. “Methemoglobinemia
from Sniffing Butyl Nitrite”. Annals of Internal Medicine,
pp. 417-18, September 1979.
man was admitted to a hospital emergency room, “complaining of
a grayish complexion which developed after inhaling butyl nitrite”.
He was diagnosed as having methemoglobinemia, a form of anemia where
the blood turns brown, and where the oxygen supply to critical organs
is reduced. Several months later, the same man reappeared, again
suffering from methemoglobinemia, again after butyl nitrite
patient was found to be methemoglobin reductase deficient, as was his
experiment was performed in which the patient and 6 non-familial
subjects were asked to sniff butyl nitrite (Locker Room “room
odorizer”) directly from the bottle for 12 minutes. As a
result, the patient “clearly became gray”, and had high
methemoglobin concentrations. The 6 normal subjects also developed
methemoglobinemia, to a lesser degree. The authors conclude:
butyl nitrite theoretically could lead to significant methemoglobin
accumulation even in normal subjects, if the nitrite exposure were
intense or if inadequate time were allowed between nitrite
inhalations for methemoglobin reduction. The risk of clinical
methemoglobinemia would, of course, be much higher in a person whose
methemoglobin clearance rate is abnormally slow and who therefore
requires a longer interval between sniffs to reduce the newly formed
Richard F.; Marmer, Daniel J.; et al. “Cellular Immunotoxicity
of Amyl Nitrite”. Journal of Toxicology- Clinical
Toxicology, 20(5), pp. 421-449 (1983).
“Functional deficits in lymphocyte interaction following
occasional or chronic exposure to inhaled nitrites may be
potential contributing but not the [primary] etiologic factor in the
acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). We evaluated the effect of
amyl nitrite vapors on mononuclear cell function and demonstrated
functional deficits and structural alterations in these cells. In
this closed, in vitro system,
exposure of cells to amyl
nitrite for up to 30 minutes did not affect cell viability. The
functional deficits demonstrated were: inhibition of lymphocyte
erythrocyte (E) rosette formation, a suppression of lymphocyte
mitogen (phytohemagglutinin) and antigen (cytomegalovirus)
transformation, a block in the S, G2 and M phases of cell
cycling and diminished cell cytotoxicity to CMV infected cells. These
effects on cellular function were demonstrated following 5, 0, and 15
minutes of amyl nitrite vapor exposure; some effect on all cellular
functions was demonstrated at 5 minutes. The structural alterations
seen on scanning and transmission electron micrographs were:
reduction of filopodia, smoothing of the cell profile, cytoplasmic
protrusions with pseudopod-like extensions, an increase in rough
endoplasmic reticulum with swollen cisternae, alterations in size and
distribution of golgi components and exocytotic vesicles in the outer
membrane of the nuclear envelope. These vesicles and increased
membrane proliferation suggests an effect on the membrane synthesis
mechanism in these cells. These effects may be a potential factor in
the alterations of phenotypic markers on T Lymphocyte populations, as
well as, a potential contributing factor in the functional deficit of
mononuclear cells in patients with AIDS.”
Harold W.; Keewhan, Choi; Thomas, Pauline A.; et al. “National
Case-Control Study of Kaposi's Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii
Pneumonia in Homosexual Men: Part 1, Epidemiologic Results”.
Annals of Internal Medicine, pp. 145-51, August 1983.
this study of the first 50 AIDS patients, 96% used nitrite inhalants
(and this would be 100% if the 2 “non-users” had
misunderstood the question). Moreover, the AIDS patients were
extremely heavy users, with a median lifetime exposure to nitrite
inhalants of 336 doses. Most of the AIDS patients were also heavy
users of many other “recreational drugs”, including
marijuana, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines (“speed”),
barbiturates, quaaludes (“ludes”), LSD, ethyl chloride,
control sample selected for this CDC study proved to be seriously
flawed. Drawn from venereal disease clinics and private practices, many
of the controls
were far from healthy. Some had immunological abnormalities and
swollen lymph glands, and several of them developed AIDS after the
study was completed. Further, many of the controls appeared to belong
to the “fast lane” segment of the gay male community, as
witness such findings as that 51-60% of the controls were cocaine
users, or that 21% of the private practice controls had been fist
from the major sampling problems described above, the inherent bias
of this study design is a bias towards
unity. That is to say,
the tendency would be falsely to overlook real risk factors, rather
than falsely to identify risk factors that were not real. The authors
of the study admit as much:
expected impact of these potential problems in control selection and
classification would be to minimize differences between cases and
controls rather than to create false differences.”
light of the fatal flaws in sample design and selection, all analyses
based upon comparison between the AIDS patients and the controls
would be dismissed by most survey research professionals as “garbage
in, garbage out”. The comparative data are worthless, and
should be ignored. The authors of this study did draw
comparative conclusions, but they were wrong to do so.
Karl A. and Lawesson, Sven-Olov. “Amyl Nitrite and Kaposi's
Sarcoma in Homosexual Men”. (letter) New England Journal of
Medicine, pp. 1893-94, 30 September 1982.
authors give the chemical formula whereby amyl or butyl nitrites can
form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds in the body —
deadly as to have “the capacity to induce cancer after only one
therefore find it appropriate to suggest that amyl nitrite may cause
Kaposi's sarcoma in homosexual men.”
and Lawesson's theories are developed more fully in an article in the
Danish medical journal, Ugeskr Laeger, of 13 December 1982).
Daniel M.; Koller, Wayne; et al. “Subchronic inhalation of
Isobutyl Nitrite in BALB/c Mice: II. Immunotoxicity Studies”.
[See also Lynch 1985 below.] Journal of Toxicology and
Environmental Health, pp. 835-47, 1985.
is a belated report on the research conducted in 1982-83, which the
CDC newsletter MMWR of 9 September 1983 had summarized as
indicating no “evidence of immunotoxic reactions”. (See
Centers for Disease Control 1983.) The MMWR
news item was
used by the poppers industry as proof that poppers had been
“exonerated”. As reports on other experiments began to
appear (Gangadharam 1985, Lotzova 1984, Neefe 1983, Ortiz 1985, and
Watson 1982), all finding that exposure to alkyl nitrites was
immunosuppressive and otherwise harmful for mice, the CDC/National
Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study became “odd
that a report on the study has finally been published, it is clear
why the government researchers failed to find “immunotoxicity”,
when all of the independent researchers did find it. The dosages
administered, via inhalation of vapors, were far too low. The study,
in effect, evaluated the effect of nitrite vapors approximating
levels to be encountered as background exposure (“room
odorizer”, workers in a poppers factory), rather than those
encountered when using poppers as a drug (i.e., inhaling directly
from the bottle). The study is thus in the tradition of the “Poppers
Bible”. (See entry under Nickerson.) At the end of their
“discussion”, Lewis et al. issue a revealing disclaimer:
relevance of these dosages to human usage of these compounds is
uncertain because persons who abuse aliphatic nitrites recreationally
would have intermittent exposures of variable frequency at very high
dosages with chemicals of unknown purity. Thus, this study did not
attempt to model the recreational use of these drugs [emphasis
added], but rather to simply evaluate the immunotoxic potential, if
any, of these compounds.”
Eva; Savary, Cherylyn A.; Hersh, Evan M.: et al. “Depression of
Murine Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity by Isobutyl Nitrite”.
Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy, pp. 130-134, vol. 17, 1984.
important mice experiment demonstrated that isobutyl nitrite was
NK-cell-suppressive in vivo after intravenous administration and,
most importantly, also after inhalation.
their “discussion” the authors state:
in experimental animals NK cells have been implicated in the
mediation of immune surveillance against tumors and resistance to
various types of infections, the depression of NK-cell cytotoxicity
by this agent could underlie the susceptibility of homosexual men to
opportunistic infection and Kaposi's sarcoma. Furthermore, the
observation that cytotoxic potential of activated NK cells was also
reduced by this agent suggests that an attempt to augment NK-cell
activity to promote resistance to infections and malignant disease in
patients with severe immunodeficiency syndrome could fail in patients
who continue to use isobutyl nitrite. Since a multifactorial
depression of immunity and a certain duration of this depression
probably sets the stage for successful infection of the presumed AIDS
agent, the continued and prolonged use of isobutyl nitrite may play
an important role in AIDS.”
results of these studies indicate that immunosuppression should be
added to the other reasons why isobutyl nitrite should not be used by
Dennis W.; Moorman, William J.; et al. “Subchronic Inhalation
Toxicity of Isobutyl Nitrite in BALB/c Mice: I. Systemic Toxicity”.
[See also Lewis 1985 above.] Journal of Toxicology and
Environmental Health, pp. 823-33, 1985.
CDC/NIOSH study was intended to “present the toxicologic
results of subchronic exposures of BALB/c mice to inhaled IBN.”
(“Subchronic” apparently means something like “less
salient point of their methodology is that the dosages
administered were low, simulating those experienced by workers in
a poppers factory3 (or by a
individual using poppers as a “room odorizer”). Lynch et
al. are reasonably candid in making their disclaimer:
were selected to mimic an occupational exposure setting in order to
fill this gap in the existing literature, rather than to conduct
brief, acute high-level exposures to imitate exposure by nitrite
light of the low dosages administered, it would not have been
surprising if the mice had suffered no ill effects whatever, but this
was not the case. The main toxic effects observed were mild damage to
the lung tissues and the formation of methemoglobin. In addition,
some of the mice developed thymic atrophy. The finding of
methemoglobinemia is relevant, since poppers cause methemoglobinemia
in humans (see Dixon, Guss, and Horne entries) and since anemia is
typically part of the AID Syndrome. The finding of thymic atrophy is
most suggestive: in autopsies of AIDS victims, the thymus gland is
found to be destroyed in 100% of the cases. No thymus gland, no
immune system. Obviously any drug that destroys the thymus gland will
play a role in causing AIDS.
Roger P. “Acute Toxicology of Butyl Nitrite”. Research
in Chemical Pathology and Pharmacology, 26:75-83, 1979.
paper discusses laboratory techniques for analyzing the various butyl
nitrites. Butyl nitrites were administered intravenously to mice,
with liver damage and death resulting.
of isobutyl , n-butyl, sec-butyl or tert-butyl alcohols to mice
produced similar hepatoxicity, suggesting that butyl alcohols may
play a role in the hepatotoxicity observed after sBN or tBN
(interview). Moneysworth, January, 1982.
OF DISCO DRUG DIE OF ITS DELIGHTS
nitrite — a legal but potentially lethal substance used to
enhance sexual pleasure and drive disco dancers to ecstatic frenzy —
is creating a new type of hazard, a toxicologist warns.
you get enough of it in your body, the chances of saving you are zero,”
Purdue University professor Roger Maickel says of the chemical
marketed variously as “Rush”, “Locker Room”,
“Climax”, and “Discorama”. “And you may
be an unwitting victim,” he adds. “It has been reported
that these compounds are sprayed out over disco floors to rev up
no deaths from
inhalation have been reported, Maickel says, in the last year there
have been at least two reported deaths from swallowing the drug.
a Purdue study
found butyl nitrites were fatal to mice in fairly small doses. “The
blood turns brown — it can't carry oxygen,” he says.
“What's interesting is that the butyl nitrites were fatal no
matter how they were administered — orally, by injection or
just by exposing the mice to the compound in the air.”
agencies have not banned butyl nitrite, he says, because they have
not been marketed as drugs. “Some federal agency ought to take
a stand,” Maickel asserts, “before there is a spate of
deaths that could have been avoided.”
D.J.; Jacobs, R.F.; and Steele, R.W. “In Vitro Immunotoxicity
of Amyl Nitrite.” Clinical Research, p. 5, vol. 30, no.
mononuclear cells to amyl nitrite vapors resulted in various cellular
abnormalities. The authors conclude:
abnormalities can help in explaining the role of amyl nitrite
cellular toxicity in immunosuppressed male homosexuals.”
Michael; Friedman-Kien, Alvin E.; Laubenstein, Linda; et al. “Risk
Factors for Kaposi's Sarcoma in Homosexual Men”. The Lancet,
pp. 1083-87, 15 May 1982.
study of 20 homosexual men with KS and 40 healthy controls. All of
the men with KS had been nitrite users. Multivariate analysis indicated
that use of amyl nitrite was an independent and statistically
significant risk factor for KS.
the light of their data, the authors consider a tenable hypothesis to
of amyl nitrite may have caused Kaposi's sarcoma either by directly
causing immunosuppression, thereby allowing expression of
sexually transmitted oncogenic virus; or by allowing an unknown
carcinogenic agent, otherwise controlled by the immune system, to
operate; or by acting as a direct or metabolically activated
Usha; Enlow, Roger W.; et al. “Longitudinal Study of Persistent
Generalised Lymphadenopathy in Homosexual Men: Relation to Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome”. The Lancet, pp. 1033-38, 12
authors conducted a 30-month tracking study (commenced in February
1981) of 42 homosexual or bisexual men with persistent
lymphadenopathy, not attributable to an identifiable cause.
intravenous drug users were excluded from the sample, “Non-parental
[non-needle] recreational use of drugs, including amphetamines,
marijuana, and cocaine, was common, and all
had inhaled nitrite.”
the course of the study, 8 subjects (19%) developed AIDS. Previous
heavy nitrite inhalant use proved to be the most important factor
distinguishing the 8 patients who developed AIDS from the 34 who did
nitrite use/outcome association was still statistically significant
(p<0.01) after adjustment for numbers of sexual contacts. The
contacts/outcome association was only marginally significant after
adjustment for nitrite use (p<0.1).” [In other words, based
on this study, nitrite inhalant use is implicated more strongly than
multiple (100+/year) sexual partners as a factor in causing AIDS.
“Promiscuity” might therefore be regarded as a marker for
the use of poppers, rather than the other way around.]
Usha; Mildvan, Donna; et al. “Follow-up at 4 1/2 Years on
Homosexual Men with Generalized Lymphadenopathy”. (letter) New
England Journal of Medicine, 12 December 1985.
authors report on their study of 42 male homosexual patients with
lymphadenopathy (unexplained and persistent lymph gland swelling).
They had observed these patients medically for four and a half
years, making this the longest tracking study of its kind so far.
this time, twelve of the 42 patients (29%) had developed full-fledged
AIDS. A previous history of moderate to heavy use of nitrite
inhalants appeared to be implicated in causing these men to develop
AIDS, and in particular, Kaposi's sarcoma.
inhalants may act alone or in combination with other, as yet
unidentified cofactors after AIDS retrovirus-induced
immunodeficiency, by promoting the specific disease manifestation of
Kenneth H. “Inhalation-Induced Immunosuppression: Sniffing Out
the Volatile Nitrite-AIDS Connection”. Pharmacotherapy,
pp. 235-36, September 1984.
this editorial, accompanying the article by Guy Newell and colleagues
(which see), Mayer states:
at al. develop several interesting lines of reasoning as to how
nitrite inhalation could be clinically important. Volatile nitrite
inhalation might potentiate the development of AIDS
of perianal vasodilation that could enhance the absorption of an
immunosuppressive substance or infectious agent. The nitrites could
be significantly immunosuppressive themselves, or the conversion to
nitrosamines could result in increased mutagenic or carcinogenic
events. These are plausible theories that are not deflated by the
elucidation of HTLVIII/LAV....”
have raised sufficient concern about the use of volatile nitrites to
warrant unequivocal disapproval of the use of these drugs at this
Kenneth and D'Eramo, James. “Poppers: A Storm Warning”.
Christopher Street, pp. 46-49, issue 78.
useful summary of medical knowledge about poppers, their deleterious
side effects and possible role in the etiology of AIDS.
Andrew. “A Case-Control Study of Risk Factors for AIDS in San
Francisco”. (Presentation to the CDC AIDS Conference in
Atlanta, 15 April 1985)
study compared two groups of gay men who were antibody positive to
the LAV (HTLV-III) virus: people who were clinically sick with AIDS,
and people who were not sick.
of the nitrite inhalants proved to be one of the most important risk
factors for developing AIDS, and especially, Kaposi's sarcoma. The
heavier the popper usage, the greater the risk.
J.R.; Ganjii, A.; and Goedert, J.G. “Daily Amyl Nitrite
Inhalation Decreases Mouse Splenocyte Response to Concanavalin A”.
(abstract 3850) Federation Proceedings 42 (4): 949, 5 March
of amyl nitrite for 2 minutes, 5 days per week, caused progressive
immunosuppression in mice. “After as little as 5 days exposure,
a trend to decreased response to the T cell nitrogen Con A... was
data suggest that nitrites may have a primary or contributory role in
Guy R.; Adams, Stephen C. et al. “Toxicity, Immunosuppressive
Effects and Carcinogenic Potential of Volatile Nitrites: Possible
relationship to Kaposi's Sarcoma”. Pharmacotherapy, pp.
235-36, September 1984.
article provides an overview of research demonstrating the adverse
effects of poppers. Especially useful for its chronological history
of the abuse of nitrite inhalants as recreational drugs and for data
on how deadly, cancer-causing N-Nitroso compounds are formed by an
interaction of nitrites with any of a long list of common drugs and
chemicals, including artificial sweeteners, antihistamines, pain
killers and methadone.
Guy R.; Mansell, Peter W.A.; Wilson, Michael B.; et al. “Risk
Factor Analysis among Men Referred for Possible Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome”. Preventive Medicine, pp. 81-91,
this case-control study, lifestyle factors of 31 homosexual men with
AIDS were compared with those of 29 symptom-free homosexual men. The
object was to identify risk factors for developing AIDS.
of nitrite inhalants proved to be a highly significant risk factor
for the development of AIDS. Further, the nitrite inhalants showed a
“dose-response gradient”: the heavier the nitrite usage,
the greater the risk of developing AIDS. For the nitrite inhalants,
the “odds ratio” (OR) increased from 4.0 for occasional
users [once per 6 months to once per month] to 6.3 for frequent users
[once per month or more often].
statistically significant (95% confidence level) odds ratios were
found for cigarette smoking (OR = 3.4), marijuana use (OR = 3.7),
frequenting bathhouses (OR = 7.6) prior syphilis (OR = 3.4), and
fist-rectal sexual practices (OR = 3.5).
authors compare their
results with those of the other two case-control studies of
homosexual men (Marmor 1982 and Jaffe 1983), and note that both of
these also identified use of poppers as a risk factor for the
development of AIDS. “We confirmed the finding of nitrite
inhalation as a significant risk factor for KS/OI.... In the CDC
study, lifetime use of nitrites was significantly greater among
patients than for either of the control groups.”
believe there are several compelling reasons for considering nitrite
inhalation a possible causal factor for development of AIDS and
KS/OI. These are (a) volatile nitrites used as recreational drugs
have been shown to be immunosuppressive both in vitro and in
vivo; (b) metabolic properties of N-nitroso compounds produce
mutagens, teratogens, and carcinogens; (c) of 290 N-nitroso compounds
tested, 252 (87%) are carcinogenic; (d) of 39 different animal
species, none is known to be resistant; (e) N-nitroso compounds are
among the most highly potent chemical carcinogens for animals; (f)
their use is extremely common among male homosexuals; and (g) a
definite dose-response relationship was shown by both Marmor et al.
and us. The combination of cigarette smoking, marijuana use, and
nitrite inhalation could predispose the lungs to opportunistic
Mark; Parker, John O.; Lowry, Thomas P.; and Swenson, Edward W.
“Isobutyl Nitrite and Related Compounds”. 95 pages.
Published by Pharmex, Ltd., 1978.
as the “Poppers Bible”, this work was commissioned by the
late W. Jay Freezer, chair of Pharmex, Ltd, the company that makes
the popper brands Rush and Bolt, at a cost of $200,000. It was
instrumental in a decision by the California Department of Health to
permit poppers to be sold free from regulation, testing, or control
of any kind, provided they were advertised as “room odorizers”
or “incense”. As a piece of special pleading published by
the poppers industry, the scientific value and credibility of this
study are nil. Nevertheless, it is still cited by defenders of
falseness of this report is revealed in the very first sentence:
the past several years there has been considerable controversy
regarding the use of butyl nitrite in consumer products used for
is the tack of the hired “experts” (each of whom has an
MD degree): to lend credence to the claim that poppers are used as
“room odorizers”, and to determine whether or not they
are safe when so used. Not surprisingly, given the underlying “room
odorizer” premise and the interests of their patron, the
authors conclude that the product studied (not referred to as
“poppers”) is quite safe. They enthusiastically fulfill
is difficult to envision any product with a better record of public
V, by Parker, is a study of the effects of ambient popper fumes upon
workers in a poppers factory. In his Introduction, Parker begins by
stating, “Butyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite are employed in
preparations intended for use as room
added.] Then, he states the purpose of his “study”:
study was undertaken to ascertain whether the inhalation of isobutyl
nitrite in concentrations far in excess of those encountered in its
normal usage [emphasis
added] would have any significant
clinical, circulatory or hematological effects.”
this verbal trickery, Parker has defined “normal usage”
of poppers as being usage as a room
odorizer. His conclusion 6
pages later is hardly unexpected: “This study has shown that
inhalations of isobutyl nitrite, far in excess of those encountered
during the normal use<><>
[emphasis added] of this agent, exert no
harmful clinical, cardiovascular or hematological effects.”
is stated in the Preface, “This study took nearly two years to
accomplish....” It seems odd that in two years of
collaboration with Pharmex, Ltd., the academics who wrote this study
were not informed that Rush, Bolt, etc. are used as drugs, not
as room odorizers. The “room
odorizer” claim is a
lie, and the report as a whole is therefore a lie. These lies may
have led to the deaths of many men.
Jesse S. and Rivera, Vilma L. “The Effect of Amyl Nitrite on
T-Cell Function in Mice”. (Presentation to the American Public
Health Association Convention, November 1985)
were exposed to amyl nitrite inhalation 5 days a week, for 21 weeks.
A matched control group of mice was maintained in an identical
environment, but was not exposed to amyl nitrite.
main findings were:
In the mice exposed to amyl nitrite: “A decrease in mean body
weight was found after accumulative exposure time of 8 weeks, and
this decrease continued until the end of the experiment. After 21
weeks of exposure time both body weight and weight gain were
significantly decreased (p<0.2; p<0.01).”
“Mice exposed to AN had extensive pathological damage to the
lungs and this damage was statistically significant (p<0.01). The
gross pathology observed in the lungs of the AN-exposed group
consisted of: a) hemorrhagic spots, b) petechiae all over the lungs,
c) collapsed consolidated sections which were red and showed the
appearance of an emphysematous lung, and d) air pockets with large
air bubbles.... It is therefore apparent that the chronic use of amyl
nitrite may have profound pathological damage to the lungs.”
Amyl nitrite inhalation caused a severe depletion of the helper
T-cells, and consequently, an inverted T-cell helper/suppressor
ratio. In the group of mice exposed to AN, the helper/suppressor
ratio was only 0.25, whereas in the control group it was 1.69
(p<0.01). A significant degree of correlation (p<0.01) was
found between T-cell ratio and the independent variables (body weight
and weight gain) in the exposed group, whereas in the control group,
no significant degree of correlation between these variables was
found, thus further confirming the causal relation between AN
inhalation and the reversed helper/suppressor T-cell ratio.
studies do show that chronic inhalation of AN can lead to an altered
T-cell helper/suppressor ratio, the same phenomenon which occurs in
AIDS victims. It does look, then, that there seems to be a link
between AN inhalation and cellular immunity depression.”
J. and Goldfield, D. “Butyl Nitrite Transformation In Vitro,
Chemical Nitrosation reactions, and Mutagenesis”. Journal of
Analytical Toxicology, pp. 164-69, July/August 1984.
authors studied “the transformation of n-butyl nitrite added to
whole blood, plasma, and water, using anion exchange high pressure
liquid chromatography, spectrometry, and gas chromatography”.
confirmed the findings of Quinto (which see) that butyl nitrite is
mutagenic (and therefore likely to be carcinogenic as well).
and Goldfield conclude:
reactions indicate that nitrosation of amines is possible and
mutagenicity studies have been confirmed. Because these experiments
indirectly suggest the potential in
nitrite, the authors join Jϕrgensen and Lawesson in warning that
use of alkyl nitrite may be hazardous and requires further study.”
Vincent. “The Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Current
Status”. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, pp.
lead editorial reviews current research and theories, stressing the
likelihood that amyl nitrite may be a causative factor, perhaps in
conjunction with an infectious agent.
puts strong emphasis on the “drug hypothesis”, making the
point that all of the non-homosexual AIDS cases were drug abusers. He
refers to studies of heroin addicts “demonstrating evidence for
opiate receptors on lymphocytes in vitro,
as well as
depression of T-cell number and function in
I. “The Mutagenicity of Alkylnitrites in the Salmonella test”.
(translation from the Italian) The Institute of Biological
Chemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Naples. Bolletino
Societa Italiana Biologia Sperimentale, 1980, 56:816-20.
effects of 5 forms of alkylnitrites on bacteria were studied, using
“the Salmonella method, which is currently believed to be one
of the best tests of mutagenesis”.
amyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite were found to be direct mutagens,
“with or without metabolic activation”. This finding is
the last 5 years, the problem of the correlation that exists between
mutagenicity and carcinogenicity in chemical products has been
studied with great attention. The results of the experiments obtained
up till now (about 90% of chemical carcinogens are mutagens) have
revealed that an actual correspondence exists between the two
concludes by relating his findings to the abuse of nitrite inhalants
in the U.S.:
originality of our experiment is the presentation of alkylnitrites as
a new class of chemical mutagenic agents and the importance of
stressing the oncogenous risk linked to the use and abuse of amyl
nitrites and isobutyl nitrites. In particular, isobutyl nitrite has
had a rapid and increasing diffusion as a drug on the American market
during the past five years. In fact, in 1978, the companies
manufacturing the chemical estimated that about five million
Americans used their product. The accusation of mutagenicity of this
compound urgently calls for a more thorough inquiry into the
oncogenous risks to which millions of users of this drug may be
K.R.; and Concannon, A.J. “Heinz Body Haemolytic Anaemia after
Sniffing Volatile Nitrites”. The Medical Journal of
Australia, pp. 302-03, 21 March 1981.
authors report on two separate cases in which young Australian men
developed Heinz body hemolytic anemia (anemia characterized by
excessive destruction of red blood cells). Each of the men had used
amyl nitrite over the two days before being hospitalized, and had
been regular users of the drug for at least 3 months, sometimes
sniffing the drug up to 20 times per session. Each of them would feel
“tired and washed out” for several days after a sniffing
tests ruled out other possible causes of the Heinz body hemolytic
anemia. In both cases the men were warned of the dangers of amyl
nitrite sniffing and were released from the hospital. Both men
returned to the hospital after one month, during which time they had
avoided the use of poppers; their blood was tested again: the anemic
condition had gone away, and their red blood cell morphology was
Leonard T.; Kapp, Frederic T. et al. “Popping and Snorting
Volatile Nitrites: a Current Fad for Getting High” American
Journal of Psychiatry, pp. 1216-18, October 1978.
valuable pre-AIDS history of volatile nitrite drug abuse, with
insights into the business
settings in which these agents are used include the bedroom, parties,
backrooms of pornographic bookstores, pornographic theaters, bars,
and dance floors. Some users have told us that a few discotheques
use special lighting effects to indicate that they are about to spray
nitrite fumes over the dance floor.”
snorting of volatile liquid nitrites for hedonistic purposes has
created a large business estimated to total $50 million a year. Sales
have reportedly averaged 100,000 bottles a week in one city alone.”
Joseph; Witkin, Steven S.; Purtillo, David T. “Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Opportunistic Infections, and Malignancies
in Male Homosexuals: A Hypothesis of Etiologic Factors in
Pathogenesis”. Journal of the American Medical Association,
pp. 2370, 6 May 1983.
article, an influential statement of the “multifactorial
hypothesis”, takes issue with the prevailing view “that a
yet-to-be-identified virus causes AIDS”. The authors develop a
model whereby “Multiple factors, rather than a novel virus,
probably induce AIDS”.
main emphasis in this model is placed upon the exposure of “a
subset of men to the immunosuppressive impact of sperm and CMV”.
However, various other potentially immunosuppressive co-factors are
considered, including “the recreational use of drugs”.
important point is made that the etiology of AIDS in homosexual men
may not be identical to the etiology of AIDS in other risk groups:
cannot, at this time, explain why AIDS is thought to be occurring in
Haitians, hemophiliacs, and others. Acquired immunodeficiency has
many causes, including malnutrition, hormonal alterations, use of
opiates and other IV drugs, and acute viral infections.”
C.L. “The Exposure of Humans to Nitrite”. Oncology,
pp. 289-296, vol. 37 (1980).
article does not deal with the nitrite inhalants, but rather nitrite
in food and the environment in general. Nevertheless, it makes an
important point relating the intensity of nitrite exposure to the
carcinogenic potential. It seems the potential for formation of the
deadly, carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds is much greater from a
brief, high-level dosage (the situation involved in snorting
poppers), than from a longer, low-dosage exposure.
the rate of nitrosation of an amine is dependent on the nitrite
concentration to a power of greater than unity, it is probable that
nitrite ingested in one application over a short period will be more
active in the synthesis of N-nitroso compounds than a continuous
supply at lower concentrations over long periods.”
A.P. “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”. British
Medical Journal, pp. 743-46, 5 March 1983.
evaluating theories on the etiology of AIDS, Waterson considers the
most promising to be:
the 'hot bed' theory argues that the traffic in human material in
certain quarters by abnormal routes has reached such a level that,
combined with the effects of drug abuse of various kinds, the sheer
weight of chemical and microbial insult to the body in general, and
to T lymphocytes in particular, goes beyond the tolerable limit.
Eventually irreparable damage is sustained, which becomes manifest
clinically in one or other of the variety of components of the
the drug theory points to drug abuse as the common denominator
between the non-homosexuals and the main mass of patients. Much
attention has focused on amyl and butyl nitrite as relative newcomers
to the scene, but they are scarcely enough
to cause all the damage.”
E. Sue; Murphy, James C. “Use of Amyl Nitrite May Be Linked to
Current Epidemic of Immunodeficiency Syndrome”. Unpublished
letter sent to the Journal of the American Medical Association,
authors report on an experiment which investigated the “effects
of amyl nitrite on the primary humoral and cellular immune responses
of mice were exposed to a single capsule of amyl nitrite (Vaporole\,
0.3 ml capsule, Burroughs Wellcome\) in an 18 liter sealed container
for 4 minutes, twice daily for 5 consecutive days beginning the day
of immunization. The humoral immune response to sheep red blood cells
was normal in mice exposed to amyl nitrite. However the cellular
response to DNFB was reduced by 30-45% in mice exposed to amyl
Watson also sent a letter to Robert McQueen , Editor of the Advocate,
in which she stated:
studies show that amyl nitrite strongly suppresses the segment of the
immune system (cellular immunity) which normally protects individuals
against Kaposi's sarcoma, Pneumocystis pneumonia, herpes virus,
Candida, amebiasis, and a variety of
infections. The upshot of this research is that persons using nitrite
inhalants may be at risk for development of AIDS.... Publication of
this letter in the Advocate will serve to alert the community
to the health risks of using amyl nitrite. I hope you will see fit to
include this information in the news section of the Advocate.”
receiving no response from the Advocate, Dr. Watson telephoned
Editor McQueen. She was told, “We're not interested”. It
may be noted here that:
The Advocate was interested
in AIDS, as several pages
in every issue were devoted to this topic.
Since the Advocate is the world's largest gay paper, tens of
thousands of gay men looked to it for guidance on how they could
reduce their risk of getting AIDS.
For years the poppers industry had been the Advocate's largest
THE POPPERS INDUSTRY
AND ITS INFLUENCE
to a 1978 study, the poppers industry was grossing $50 million a
year--a figure which may well have doubled or tripled since then.
a 1981 article5, Arthur Evans
cited some disturbing
aspects of the poppers industry. In 1978 a major poppers
manufacturer, W. Jay Freezer6,
(at a cost of $200,000) to prepare a study which
concluded that butyl nitrite products were safe “when used for
odorizing purposes”. 7
On the basis of this impudently irrelevant
study, the California Department of Health permitted poppers to be
sold, free of any regulation, testing, or control, provided only that
the products be advertised as “room odorizers or incense”.
fact, both the popper makers and the California Department of Health
committed a criminal fraud. By hiding behind the lie that poppers are
being used as a room odorizer or incense, they have completely
circumvented the normal safety net of testing which every drug in
this country must be subject to in order to be sold.”
point to be noted here is that the poppers industry can afford to
spend large amounts of money in “influencing” research,
government agencies, and public opinion, and was apparently quite
successful with the California Department of Health.
major campaign of “disinformation” commenced on 1
April 1983, when a press release was issued by Joseph F. Miller,
“president of Great Lakes Products, Inc., the nation's largest
manufacturer of nitrite-based odorants”. It was entitled, “U.S.
Government Studies Now Indicate that Nitrite-Odorants Not Related to
AIDS!” [New Footnote]
to Miller, “the assistant director of the Center for Infectious
Diseases (a part of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta), Dr.
James Curran, invited him to Atlanta in late November of last year to
discuss the work being done by CDC relative to its AIDS
investigations”. [If true, this meeting would be a very serious
indiscretion on Curran's part, raising the possibility of collusion
between the poppers industry and CDC officials.] According to
Miller's press release, the CDC assured him that “no
association exists between nitrite-based odorants and AIDS”.
a charming exercise of equivocation, Miller's press release states:
his company does not advocate the misuse of HARDWARE or QUICKSILVER
as inhalants, Miller says the company is greatly relieved to know
that recent Government studies clearly show that such misuse poses no
months later (27 September 1983) Dr. James Curran sent an angry
letter to the poppers manufacturer, with a copy to the Advocate
(which never printed it). Curran did not deny having met with Miller
in Atlanta, but he objected strongly to some of his statements:
health hazards from misuse of these drugs have
documented. Your press release and advertisements in the Advocate
are misleading and misrepresent the CDC findings and their
it is unlikely that nitrites will be implicated as the primary cause of
AIDS, their role as a cofactor in some of
the illnesses found in this syndrome has not been ruled out. I must
insist that you discontinue the misuse and misinterpretation of CDC
No study has ever been done, as of November 1982 or subsequently,
that could reasonably be interpreted as “exonerating”
demonstrating, in the words of Miller's press release,
that “no association exists between nitrite-based odorants and
AIDS”. The little MMWR news item (CDC 1983), which
an absence of “immunotoxic reactions” in mice exposed to
popper fumes, was grossly misleading. When the study was finally
reported on, two years later, it turned out that the mice had been
exposed to low dosages intended to “mimic an occupational
exposure setting” rather than the much higher dosages that
would “imitate exposure by nitrite abusers”. (Lewis 1985,
Lynch 1985) No fewer than six other mice studies (Gangadharam 1985,
Lotzova 1984, Maickel 1979, Neefe 1983, Ortiz 1985, Watson 1982) have
demonstrated that exposure to amyl, butyl, or isobutyl nitrite is
highly immunotoxic and otherwise harmful to mice.
CDC weasels on poppers
several years the Committee to Monitor Poppers has regularly sent
copies of research to the CDC and other public health agencies. On 21
April 1985, Hank Wilson of the Committee to Monitor Poppers wrote a
letter to Dr. James Curran, requesting that the CDC assist in the
formulation of risk reduction guidelines by issuing a statement
condemning the use of poppers:
should be no question that popper use is quite extensive among gay
males. Inhalant nitrites continue to be marketed and promoted to the
gay male community as if they had no harmful health effects, nor any
role in the development of AIDS.”
should issue an alert to popper users. Popper users need to know that
initial research indicates that poppers may be immunosuppressive.
Users need to know that epidemiological research links poppers and
KS. Users need to know that inhaling nitrites may result in cellular
changes which make them vulnerable to an AIDS virus infection. A
warning can be issued with the qualification that 'more research is
needed', but the least CDC can do is to alert the popper users about
what is already known. Better to err on the side of caution than to
responded with a most evasive letter:
you for your letter of April 21 and the enclosures.
of the studies you cite are outdated and some are quite current. You
have edited and amalgamated them skillfully. The data presented by
Haverkos and Moss and their respective collaborators at the recent
International Conference on AIDS are intriguing and deserving of
further attention. The issues they raised warrant further
investigation into the whole field of cofactors and their role in
AIDS causation. It is possible that heavy use of nitrites, or another
factor correlated with such use, may contribute in some as yet
undefined way to the development of Kaposi's sarcoma in those already
infected with HTLV-III or who have AIDS.
agree that this information should be disseminated and I acknowledge
the active role you have played in this effort. On the other hand,
the present data do not justify an absolute “anti-popper”
certainly wish to point out that no data exist to indicate that using
nitrites is a safe, risk-free practice. Gay men should consider
decreasing use of this substance until more data are available to
assess those risks that may exist.
you for your
interest in this issue.
W. Curran, M.D., M.P.H.
of Viral Diseases
comments on the Curran letter: What does it mean to say, “Some
of the studies you cite are outdated”? Which studies? And how
so? — because they have been a) superseded by better studies?,
or b) contradicted by later studies? At any rate, what about the
really important studies, any one of which provides a reasonable
warrant for banning
now, not just issuing warnings
about them. Why does Curran refuse to address himself to a single
specific issue? And what does Curran mean, “the present data
do not justify an absolute ‘anti-popper’ campaign”? Would it be an
“absolute ‘anti-popper’ campaign”
to come right out and say “Don't use poppers”, or
“Poppers are harmful to the health”, or “Poppers
are a risk factor for AIDS”? There is plenty of information
right now to take a stand on poppers, and no excuse for weaseling on
statement, “Gay men should consider decreasing use of this
substance until more data are available to assess those risks that
may exist”, is preposterous. Gay men should not “consider”
anything at this point; they should act. And they should stop
using poppers, not just decrease the
use of them.
for the poppers industry
Wisconsin last year, the poppers industry, under the leadership of
Joseph Miller, waged an all-out battle to prevent poppers from being
banned. A formidable legal brief was prepared, which sanctimoniously
adhered to the “room odorizer” tack. (“Those who
denigrate the room odorizer effect of Great Lakes' products...are
actually expressing nothing more than their personal distaste for the
butyl nitrite odor.”)
experts were flown in to testify as to the harmlessness of poppers,
including the Professor of Medicine, John Parker, a co-author of the
expert witness for Great Lakes Products, Inc. was Bruce Voeller, a
founder and former Co-Director of the National Gay Task Force.
According to a Wisconsin paper, “Voeller said all studies
linking AIDS and butyl nitrite were 'utterly flawed and without
foundation'”. Another paper noted dryly that Voeller's
“expenses for appearing at the hearing were paid by a butyl
legislators were not favorably impressed by the “expert”
testimony, and poppers are now a “banned hazardous substance”
California, both San Francisco and Los Angeles have moved to ban the
use of poppers in public, and to require point-of-sale warnings that
their use is linked to the development of AIDS. In testifying in Los
Angeles, Joseph Miller took several steps backwards:
recognize that the nitrites can be misused as inhalants. We have a
responsibility for consumers; that's why we have warning labels that
they should not be inhaled.” [Emphasis added.]
poppers continue to be sold legally, this is due in part to
disinformation from the poppers industry, disinformation which
undoubtedly lies behind the striking disparity between current
medical knowledge regarding the nitrite inhalants, as reported in the
best medical journals, and the near-blackout on such information in
the popular press and much of the gay press.
regulatory agencies have behaved shamefully in accepting the “room
odorizer” lie. (“The makers have done their homework”,
said Edward Nida, an FDA spokesman, “there's not a damn thing
we can do about it.”) This is utter madness. Everyone knows
that poppers are inhaled as a drug. Everyone who has studied the
issue knows that poppers are dangerous, and almost certainly
implicated in the etiology of AIDS. And yet the popper profits
continue to roll in, and gay men continue to die.
long as public officials refuse to do their duty, it is up to each of
us individually to spread the word about the dangers of using
judgment is called for. The bottom line is:
NOT USE POPPERS!
A: Koch's Postulates: The Case Against
the Sole, Sufficient, or Necessary Cause of AIDS
medical science, the standards for proving that a particular
micro-organism causes a disease are three classic laws known as
“Koch's Postulates”. So far, the so-called “AIDS
virus” (LAV or HTLV-III),9 has
failed to fulfill even one of the bacteriologist Dr. Robert Koch's
three laws for “establishing the specificity of a pathogenic
first Postulate requires that the microbe be found in all
cases of the disease. In various samplings of AIDS patients, anywhere
from 20% to 64% do not have the LAV virus, and about 10% do not even
have antibodies. CDC officials cavalierly attribute this awkward
finding to “poor testing methods”, failing to acknowledge
that the burden of proof is on those who claim that the “AIDS
virus” is the cause of AIDS.
second Postulate requires injection of the micro-organism into
susceptible animals, with the result that the same disease is
produced. For years researchers have been injecting several species
of monkeys with fluids from people with AIDS. Whatever microbes were
in the blood of the AIDS patients — whether viruses, bacteria,
or other — whether named LAV or HTLV-III or ARV or something
else — these microbes would have been transmitted, in large
quantities, to the blood of the monkeys. And none of the monkeys has
yet developed AIDS.10 Further,
there have been
several hundred carefully monitored cases of health care workers who
accidentally stuck themselves with needles that had been used on AIDS
patients. In no case has AIDS resulted from one of these
third Postulate requires that the agent create the disease upon
transfer from animals made ill by inoculation. Obviously this
condition has not been met, as no animal has yet been made ill by
is certainly possible that the LAV virus may play some role, perhaps
even an important role, in causing AIDS. However, LAV clearly cannot
be regarded as a necessary factor in
causing AIDS if
substantial proportions of AIDS patients do not have the virus. This
is the inescapable logic of Koch's first Postulate.
that up to two-thirds of the AIDS patients do not have the virus in
their bodies, one may question the wisdom of treating these patients
with toxic and experimental antiviral drugs, such as ribavirin, which
at best may prevent the virus from
replicating. If the virus
is not present in the patient's body, there is nothing to prevent
government's insistence that the “HTLV-III” virus is the
cause of AIDS, sole and sufficient, has stifled independent research
and thinking, and has dangerously misled people as to the
risk-factors for AIDS. Intravenous drug users have not been told to
quit using drugs, only that they must stop “sharing needles”.
(Actually, there is no evidence that all, or even most, of the IV
drug users with AIDS did “share needles”.) Gay men have
been told that they must restrict their sexual activities, but not
that they ought to stop using cocaine, heroin, quaaludes,
amphetamines, ethyl chloride, PCP, marijuana, LSD, barbiturates,
poppers, and the other “recreational drugs” (a sick
euphemism) that are prominent in the lifestyle of many gay men.
government's unreasoning dogmatism is well expressed in Robert
Gallo's statement: “If you get run over by a truck, you don't
need co-factors.” The “AIDS virus” is hardly a
truck, and it may be the “co-factors” that cause AIDS.
B: A TOXICOLOGIC MODEL
“AIDS virus” etiology has been put forward thousands of
times in the media, complete with color fluorescence micrograph
photographs, and the public has come to believe it. Nevertheless, the
“virus only” theory is not tenable. Repeating a
hypothesis does not verify it. Propaganda is not science.
theory of how AIDS is caused must come to grips with the fact that
for five years AIDS, unlike a truly communicable disease, has
remained compartmentalized. More than nine out of ten AIDS cases are
either intravenous drug users or homosexual/bisexual men.
science recognizes that illnesses can have infectious causes, or
non-infectious causes, or both types of causes acting together. Some
illnesses are caused primarily by communicable microbes. Others —
like radiation-induced leukemia, black lung disease, alcoholic
cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema from cigarette smoking, or the
dioxin (“Agent Orange”) syndrome of diseases — are
caused by toxins.
reasons unknown, the U.S. Public Health Service adheres with military
rigidity to the line that AIDS must
be explained in terms of
the “AIDS virus”, and that research efforts must be based
solely on this premise. Risk-reduction measures are to be predicated
solely on preventing transmission of the putative virus.13
officials have taken an adversary stance against the possibility that
toxic agents play a role in causing AIDS. They have, for example,
laid down the line that IV-drug users develop AIDS, not from the
drugs they use, but from allegedly “shared needles”, an unproved
assumption. Considering that heroin is known to be
immunosuppressive, and specifically to cause depression of T-cells,
the government's intransigent dismissal of the drugs, while focussing
on “shared needles”, is bizarre and irresponsible. It is
truly a case of “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel”.
actuality, such epidemiological information as we have seems more
consistent with a toxicologic than with the prevailing microbial
model. To illustrate another way of looking at AIDS, we have
developed the accompanying diagram, in which toxins represent the
primary causative factor. By no means a finished explanation of how
AIDS is caused, the model is intended to portray possible
relationships, to generate hypotheses and provide directions for
in the diagram is part of the typical AID Syndrome, though the exact
relationships involved, or the relative importance of the various
components, remain to be determined. Some factors may be relatively
trivial, while others may be crucial. In the center are various
toxins, some peculiar to the lifestyles of IV-drug users and/or urban
gay men, others affecting much of the population. The model is
multifactorial, for disease, like health, is multifactorial. However,
one should bear in mind that some drugs are capable of causing AIDS
all by themselves.
vicious circles are in operation, for example, “Dietary/Metabolic
Imbalance”, a condition caused by many different drugs. There
are addicts who seem to live on nothing but candy bars and sugar
water. When the carbohydrate diet is joined to an impaired
immunological system and the use of antibiotics (like tetracycline),
a yeast infection (“thrush”) commonly develops, which
further depresses immunological functioning and creates even greater
craving for carbohydrates.
another vicious circle, the inhaled “recreational” drugs
cause lung damage (Newell 1985, Ortiz 1985), which depresses the
immune system (of which the lungs are a crucial component) and
prepares the way for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, which further
impairs the immune system, damages the lungs, and requires
antibiotics, which themselves aggravate the condition.
research needs to be done, as there is amazingly little information
on the characteristics of people with AIDS. To begin with we need
studies of large, representative samples of AIDS patients —
information on their diets, before and after diagnosis; their drug
habits in detail, including combinations, amounts, and frequency of
use; cigarette smoking; infectious disease histories; medical drug
histories, with special attention to antibiotics. Were there many
PWA's in good health prior to
developing AIDS? — who had
cigarettes, used drugs, drunk excessively, or had a
history of venereal infections with antibiotic treatment? — who
had followed a well-balanced diet?
The “virus only”
theory (“you don't need co-factors”) would imply many
such people; the toxicologic model, very few.
OF AIDS: A TOXICOLOGIC MODEL
C: Occam's Razor: The Drugs Connection
have we argued that poppers are the
cause of AIDS. Obviously
poppers are not, as there are AIDS patients who have never used them.
At the same time, the “AIDS virus” (LAV or HTLV-III)
cannot be the cause either, as
substantial numbers of AIDS
patients do not have the virus in their bodies, and yet remain sick.
To be honest one must say that the cause of AIDS is unknown. There
may be more than one route to AIDS, or it may be that multiple
factors in combination are required to cause the condition.
generally prefers the “most parsimonious” explanation
that accounts for the facts. The principle was formulated by the
14th-century philosopher, William of Occam, whose Razor states, “What
can be done with fewer [assumptions] is done in vain with more.”
drugs, such as the medications used during transplant operations, can
cause the AIDS condition, immune deficiency, all by themselves. It is
also known that “recreational” drugs, like heroin, are
immunosuppressive. And it is now firmly established that poppers are
immunosuppressive. More than a quarter of the AIDS cases have
occurred among intravenous drug users, and most of the remaining AIDS
cases have occurred among gay men who used poppers (as well as other
injectors of immunosuppressive heroin, or inhalers of
immunosuppressive poppers, develop AIDS, Occam's Razor suggests
parsimoniously assuming that their drugs were the cause. Microbes,
diet, and other lifestyle and environmental factors probably played a
role, but these represent superfluous assumptions.
any event, common sense dictates not using immunosuppressive drugs.
Do not use poppers.
See Appendix A: Koch's Postulates: The Case Against LAV/HTLV-III's
Being the Sole, Sufficient, or Necessary Cause of AIDS.
By “recreational drugs”, we are not referring to coffee
or chamomile tea. The drugs that were used heavily by the gay men
with AIDS who were studied in 1981-1982 included not only poppers,
but barbiturates, amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, ethyl chloride, LSD,
PCP, and quaaludes (“ludes”). (Haverkos 1985) Looking at
this menu of drugs, the question is not, “Could it be that one
of these drugs is harmful?” They are all harmful. Ethyl
chloride, for example, causes brain damage every time it is inhaled.
is known to be
immunosuppressive, causing, among other things, a depression of
T-cell number and function in opiate addicts. (References in
there is alcohol,
which may be benign when used in moderation, but which is one of the
most toxic of all drugs when used heavily. Physicians in New York
City, who have treated many hundreds of patients with AIDS, have
stated that a large proportion of these men were alcoholics.
who feels he may
have a drug/alcohol problem should get help. Unless emergency medical
attention is needed, the best first step would probably be to
telephone Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, depending on
the nature of the addiction.
Such workers were the focus of Appendix V by John O. Parker in the
“Poppers Bible”. (See entry under Nickerson.) Oddly, the
researchers list this poppers industry publication under their
“References”, as though it were a legitimate source.
In a letter of 25 March 1983 (a copy of which is in the archives of
the Committee to Monitor Poppers), to Peter Frisch of The
Advocate, Joseph F. Miller, President of Great Lakes Products,
Inc., urged The Advocate to publicize his press release, which
claimed that CDC studies had exonerated poppers from any connection
to AIDS. Miller was fully confident in the power of his advertising
the largest advertiser in the Gay press we intend to use the
extensive ad space we purchase each month as the vehicle for sending
a message of good health and wellness through nutrition and exercise
to the North American Gay communitites [sic].”
Advocate then ran full-page advertisements for the Great Lakes
brands of poppers; the series was called, “Blueprint for
Health”. The Advocate's health expert, Nathan Fain,
whose credentials consisted of journalism experience covering the
theater, wrote that poppers had been exonerated by a CDC study. Fain
criticized researchers who warned about the dangers of poppers,
attacked the New York Native for printing anti-popper
editorials and news items, and ridiculed the City of San Francisco
for banning poppers sales to minors and requiring warning signs to be
posted at point of sale.
Miller's activities, see the section immediately following, “The
Poppers Industry and its Influence”.
Evans, Arthur. “Poppers: An Ugly Side of Gay Business”.
Coming Up! November 1981.
W. Jay Freezer died of complications due to AIDS on 27 March 1985.
Freezer was not the first poppers manufacturer to die from AIDS. He
was preceded by the New Yorker known as “Poppers Bill”.
See entry under Nickerson.
See entry under Nickerson.
Now known as the “Human Immunodeficiency Virus”: HIV-1.
The infra-human primates did become “infected”, since
their bodies formed antibodies to what is now called HIV-1. However,
none developed “AIDS”. As of now, the Spring of 1992,
they are still healthy.
This devastating argument against the AIDS-from-shared-needles
hypothesis became even stronger after this passage was written. A
1988 CDC study, of health care workers who had been stuck with
hypodermic needles that had been used in AIDS patients, found that
out of 1428 workers who had thus been accidentally inoculated with
the plasma of AIDS patients, only four (0.3%) seroconverted (i.e.,
developed HIV antibodies), and none developed AIDS! Not a single case
of AIDS from a needle-stick injury has ever been demonstrated.
(Centers for Disease Control, “Update: Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome and Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Infection Among Health-Care Workers”, Morbidity
Mortality Weekly Report, 22 April 1988 [vol. 37, No. 15], pp. 229
Although the AIDS Establishment claims that techniques for detecting
the virus have improved greatly since 1986, the fact remains that in
a substantial number of AIDS patients neither HIV-1 itself nor HIV-1
antibodies can be detected, even using the most sensitive
At the time this passage was written, the CDC reported AIDS
statistics by using a “hierarchical presentation”. Data
on “AIDS cases by Patient Characteristics” were reported
by listing the largest category (homosexual men) first, after which a
patient was included in a subsequent risk group only if he had not
already been counted. A gay man who used IV drugs was a homosexual,
but not an IV-drug user.
tables showed 17% of
AIDS cases as being IV-drug users, with no indication that these 17%
were only the exclusively heterosexual IV-drug users. They
concealed the substantial overlap group: gay men who were also IV
drug users. In fact, anywhere from 26% to 34% of the total AIDS cases
were IV-drug users.
effect of the CDC's
statistical trickery was to underreport IV-drug users as an AIDS risk
group by at least 50%; the effect was to construe AIDS as a venereal
disease, rather than a drug-induced condition.
New Footnote. Joseph Miller committed suicide on 25 August 2010.
Wilson, a long-time gay activist in San Francisco, founded the
Committee to Monitor Poppers in the fall of 1981. Since then, Wilson
and the Committee have assembled a formidable collection of medical
and other literature on the nitrite inhalants, have corresponded with
researchers and public officials internationally, and have played a
leading role in sounding the tocsin on the dangers of poppers. Wilson
was a founder of the Gay Teachers Coalition, a founder of the Harvey
Milk Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club, a founder of the Butterfly
Brigade (a gay self-defence group), and a founder of Community United
Lauritsen received his A.B. degree from Harvard (Department of Social
Relations), and has twenty years of experience as a market research
executive and analyst. Lauritsen is co-author of The Early
Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935) and has edited the John
Addington Symonds anthology, Male Love:
A Problem in Greek Ethics
and Other Writings.
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