As of February 2018, amyl will likely be outlawed in Australia as a Schedule 9 Prohibited Substance. This will effectively see poppers ranked alongside heroin, MDMA, cannabis, LSD, and DMT in the eyes of the law. It will also officially make them more strictly prohibited than fentanyl, methamphetamine, and GHB.
So what’s the go? Well, it all started in April when the Therapeutic Goods Administration filed a submission condemning the sale and use of amyl nitrites as a recreational substance—sold under-the-counter at adult stores and used by many within the LGBTIQ community during sex. The TGA insists that poppers ought to be used for “a lubricating action between machinery parts” only, and proposed an amendment to the Poisons Standard that would move them from Schedule 4—a prescription-only substance—to Section 9—a prohibited substance.
Now it looks like that amendment is going to be passed: meaning that being caught with a bottle of Jungle Juice in your pocket will probably carry the similar, if not exact same penalty as being caught with a satty of caps. The TGA’s justification for this is relatively weak: they cite a handful of ophthalmologists who are “reporting an increase in the number of cases of maculopathies (retinal damage) caused by recreational use of poppers”.
Short of actually drinking the stuff, or combining it with other substances like Viagra, though, this is pretty much where the dangers end. And even the evidence for that seems to be anecdotal at best.
In 2016 the UK rejected a popper ban precisely because they were not deemed capable of “having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem”. Dissidents had proposed that the inhalants be outlawed as part of the Psychoactive Substances Act, The Guardian reports, but it was ultimately found that they did not sufficiently meet the definition of a dangerous psychoactive. In that case, a former Conservative MP outed himself as an amyl user and denounced the proposed ban as being “fantastically stupid”.
In any case, one thing we can bank on is that a crackdown on the market isn’t going to do anything for the safety of the product. People will likely still find a way to get their hands on poppers—whether through sex shops or dealers. But once the substance goes underground and the quality suffers as a result, those risks will really start rearing their ugly heads.