Earlier this year, the Australian government announced that they were looking to ban poppers. The Therapeutic Goods Administration filed a proposal back in April to have amyl escalated to a Schedule 9 substance. That means, essentially, that the popular inhalant would be ranked in the same class as heroin and MDMA—and in September the powers that be passed an interim decision to go ahead with that move. As of February, the drug is set to be outlawed for use as anything other than machine lubricant.
The proposed rescheduling has received some heated backlash in the months since it was announced: not least of all from members of the LGBTIQ+ community who genuinely regard amyl as a “therapeutic good”, given that it enables them to have comfortable anal sex. That’s something the TGA’s failed to take into account, according to some LGBTIQ+ health advocates—who have now made their own submission to have the poppers ban reconsidered, The Guardian reports.
Sexual health physician Vincent Cornelisse and community health advocate Daniel Reeders have slammed the TGA’s proposal as short-sighted and potentially discriminatory toward the tens of thousands of people who regularly use amyl during sex. The Administration has previously claimed that there is a “high potential for misuse and abuse of alkyl nitrites for euphoric properties, and as sex aids due to their muscle relaxant properties” in “particular sections of the community”. But Cornelisse and Reeders argue that the very things about amyl the TGA seems to be so worried about—namely, its use as an analgesic and muscle relaxant—are precisely what make it such a beneficial substance from a sexual health perspective.
“Use as sex aids due to their muscle relaxant properties should not be considered misuse and abuse of these substances,” they state, and claim that these properties in fact constitute a “legitimate, beneficial, and therapeutic use” for the drug. Moreover, they suggest the fact that the TGA mistook “the benefits of use as risks of use” indicates “a prejudgment of the scheduling decision”.
The proposed amyl ban has been widely panned as an act of discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community. Speaking to Fairfax earlier this year, gay activist Steven Spencer suggested that: “With all of this overwhelming evidence saying that poppers generally aren’t harmful and that they actually provide a very safe avenue particularly for gay men to explore themselves, explore their sex, explore their community, the only conclusion you can really come down to is that it’s moralising and perhaps even homophobic.”
Cornelisse and Reeders aren’t quite as explicit, but they do warn against the potential mental health implications of “[criminalising] the practice of an estimated 90,000 adult gay and bisexual men, as well as an undetermined number of queer women, non-binary people, and heterosexual men and women who currently use nitrite inhalants”.
The health advocates met yesterday with the TGA—who are currently taking consultations on the proposal—to discuss alternatives to the ban.