Have you noticed anything wrong with poppers recently? A couple of years ago, all brands in the UK announced a 'new' formulation; with impaired, short-lasting effects and a nasty sharp smell. 'Real' amyl nitrite (NOT amyl nitrAte, different chemical altogether*) poppers were banned from non-prescription sale in 1996. The second-best type, isobutyl nitrite was banned in 2008. All 'poppers' sold in the UK are now isopropyl nitrite, the nasty sharp stuff.
You may well ask why, considering that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs considers poppers to cause very little harm, and they continue to be perscribed to treat heart conditions such as angina. I think I've found out why...
An organisation called "Positively Healthy UK" proudly proclaims on their website:
Popperstoppers was originally a campaign in the UK led by HIV positive gay men to achieve the ban on the retail sale of poppers and was managed and directed by Cass Mann, CEO of Positively Healthy (POSH). It is now incorporated into the main stream work of POSH, following approval and support for this work from the Secretary of State for the Department of Health.
POSH has worked in close collaboration with The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in the successful prosecution in 1996 at Crown Court, in front of a judge, of a retail outlet selling the poppers derivative amyl nitrite. This resulted in the UK-wide ban of amyl nitrite and its disappearance from sale
We also worked in tandem with The Department of Health's Medicines Control Agency from 1996 until 2001 to secure a prosecution of manufacturers of the remaining two poppers derivatives, butyl and n-isobutyl nitrites. A prosecution was eventually brought in March 2001 at Crown Court, before a judge and jury, against two manufacturers, but this proved unsuccessful.
'WHY?', you ask?
There have also been suggestions that KS might be linked to the recreational drug poppers (nitrite inhalants). KS is an AIDS-defining symptom largely restricted to gay and bisexual men, the most frequent users of poppers. A number of studies found that gay and bisexual men who have used poppers are much more likely to have developed KS as an AIDS-defining illness than non-users, but other studies have shown no clear relationship. Cases of KS have been reported in HIV-negative gay and bisexual men who were heavy users of poppers. However, more than a dozen HIV-negative cases have also been reported in gay and bisexual men who never used poppers.
So, you and me are not permitted to buy amyl (or isobutyl) nitrite because one study showed a possibility of an increased risk of developing KS if you already have AIDS.
Now I agree with informing people about the potential risks of drugs, but banning a fairly safe and popular drug because one study shows a possible correlation between the use of it and a complication of a specific disease goes a bit far. It's like banning wearing black clothes altogether, because if you were to walk on an unlit road at night wearing black you are at increased risk of being ran over.
* Amyl Nitrate is a completely different chemical to Amyl Nitrite, does not have the same effects on humans and is used as a diesel additive, amongst other things.