The UK government has dropped its plans to ban poppers.
British politicians voted to approve a ban on ‘legal highs’ in January, with the it set to become the law on 6 April. However, Home Secretary Theresa May conceded a review of poppers would happen before the law came into effect.
In a drastic u-turn, Home Office minister Karen Bradley confirmed in a letter to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: ‘I understand that the Council has now advanced its understanding of the psychoactivity of the alkyl nitrites group under the Act and concluded that only substances that directly stimulate or depress the central nervous system are psychoactive under the Act.
‘Having given due consideration, the Government agrees with your advice and interpretation of the definition.
‘We do so in the understanding that “poppers” have these unique indirect effects. Our understanding is that this approach does not have any further implications for the operation of the Act and that other substances that the Act intends to cover are not affected.
‘We remain confident that the psychoactivity of those substances can be established under the definition in the Act.
“We will ask law enforcement agencies to be guided by our agreement with your advice.
“Our acceptance of your advice brings to an end the review process we were undertaking in parallel to consider the case for a bespoke exemption for the alkyl nitrites group under the Act on the basis of their beneficial and relationship effects.
Bradley added that while formulations of poppers has already been banned under dangerous substances.
‘We will ensure that our messaging across government and its agencies is updated,’ he said. ‘The ACMD advise that the reports of ocular damage though rare should be carefully monitored. Together with Government, I ask that the ACMD keep a check on this as well.’
The last time poppers were linked to early deaths in the UK was in 2013, with two people dying with poppers in their system according to the Office for National Statistics. However, these were not the only harmful drugs in their body.
During the debate Mike Freer, a gay Conservative MP, saying poppers have a beneficial effect. He claimed you can use them to treat adder bites.
Crispin Blunt, another gay Conservative MP, outed himself as a poppers user during the debate.
Alkyl nitrites are used by an estimated one-third of gay and bi men, mostly to enhance sex.