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Single-use poppers: The new kid on the block

By Shaun Hill (NZ Drug Foundation)

Summary Image

Single-use poppers: The new kid on the block

By Shaun Hill (NZ Drug Foundation)

Poppers, sometimes known as ‘amyl’, is a nitrite-based drug that has been used by gay men for many years, though it is traditionally used medically to ease chest pain caused by angina.

For the last few decades, poppers have been supplied in small bottles. However, a new single-use form of poppers is on the market; and you can get it from your GP - with a few caveats.

As this is hot off the press, I thought it would be a good idea to take one for the team and check out what the single-use option is all about, how to access it, and how it measures up to what you might be used to.

Firstly, what's the existing process?

Poppers have been scheduled as a prescription only medication since March 2020. While they’ve been readily available on the “grey market” since that point, quality and pricing can vary significantly as a result. Currently, advocates are looking to expand the options that folks have to be able to access them in a more stable way, including working with importers to try and get a regulated product into the country.

There are a small handful of doctors who have confirmed that they’re able to provide a prescription, though others may also be happy to do so. An initial consult will often be at their standard prices, but some have indicated that they’re able to offer a reduced rate for repeats.


You could also have a conversation with your regular GP around options to make intercourse more enjoyable and reduce painful sex, if you feel comfortable to do so.


Prescribing guidelines are available through Auckland Sexual Health to help with this if they have limited knowledge around options.

Once you’ve sorted a prescription, the main option for sourcing poppers is by importing them via online retailers. You’re able to legally import up to a 90-day supply, or the equivalent of up to 6 bottles. Be aware that your shipment may be stopped at the border by Customs while they confirm that your products match what you’ve been prescribed. Your doctor may be contacted to confirm that they have prescribed those products.  

If your products are stopped, you’ll be sent forms from Medsafe that will need to be completed by you and your prescribing GP before the products can be released to you. Prescriptions need to include the chemical name (e.g. amyl nitrite), the volume of the bottle, and how many are being prescribed.

BodyPositive have a more detailed breakdown of the process and requirements that can be accessed here if you’d like more information, or suggestions of GPs to contact.

So what's the new single-use option?

Some pharmacies in Auckland are now stocking single-use ampoules for purchase with a prescription. This is still a relatively new offering though, so if you have a prescription to fill, it’s best to call ahead to check whether or not your pharmacy has stock.

These are similar to how poppers were originally used – as in they ‘pop’ open. These ampoules contain pharmaceutical grade amyl nitrite (though other medications are more commonly used for this purpose today). This means that they are of a more guaranteed quality compared to what might be available on the grey market, and there’s no risk of things being mislabeled or misrepresented.

If you do decide to seek a prescription for this form of poppers, you’ll need to make sure your GP writes it up correctly – the way to do this is outlined in the prescription guidelines mentioned earlier. With a prescription, you’re able to purchase up to 3 boxes of 12 single-use ampoules at a time.

We haven’t seen poppers in this type of format in a long time – while how you use them and the type of experience is the same, there are a few things to keep in mind if you decide that you’d like to try them:

  • This new form of poppers come as a small glass vial inside a sachet, designed to be crushed between your thumb and fingers. Once they’re cracked open, hold the sachet under (not in) your nose before inhaling the vapour as you would normally.
  • There’s no risk of cutting yourself unless the sachet is torn open (not recommended).
  • The liquid from the vial slightly soaks into the material over time. It isn’t generally enough to leak out of the sachet. Hold the sachet by the sealed ends to avoid getting any on your skin, as it can cause irritation or burns unless washed off quickly.
  • Like usual, keep the sachet away from open flames.
  • These are designed for single-use and cannot be resealed. This means the vapour escapes over time. You’ve got roughly 20-30 minutes before starting to see diminishing effects. After this time, they’ll still be effective muscle relaxants for the bedroom, but won’t produce as much of a head rush for use on the dance floor.


Want to know more?

About the effects and how to take poppers safely About the ordering and prescription process

For those of you in situations where you’d rather keep things down low, the sachets themselves are much smaller and easier to hide with more discreet packaging than other options

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Are they worth it?

I was keen to see how they compared to the typical product that’s available. After trying them out in a couple of different settings, here are some pros and cons for this new type of poppers:


  • For the discerning poppers connoisseur, I found the vials to give a good quality rush compared to the common brands available – they had a nice and smooth build-up, a prolonged headrush (around 3-4 minutes), and none of the typical headache or tension that can often follow.
  • As they come in a sachet, there’s no need to stop the action while taking a hit to avoid burns, like there is with the usual bottles.
  • For those of you in situations where you’d rather keep things down low, the sachets themselves are much smaller and easier to hide with more discreet packaging than other options – it’s still recommended to keep them in the fridge however, so keep that in mind.


  • The cost of a single ampoule is now around $10, with a box of 12 available for $120 - this is roughly twice as much as a single 30mL bottle. While this is on the pricier end if you regularly indulge, those of you who enjoy poppers infrequently might find it beneficial, as these won’t lose any potency until you crack them.
  • While they’ll last in storage longer than an opened bottle, they can’t be resealed and lose potency during the session once cracked. They may not serve your purpose as well if you’re somebody who prefers sessions to last more than 30 minutes, or likes to go more than one round in a night.
  • While the bottles aren’t immune to this, as the sachets are very small it’s possible to accidentally lose one if you place it down in the heat of the moment – I’d recommend holding onto it or putting it on a stable surface nearby.
  • As with any single-use item, there are issues around sustainability - while I don't anticipate that enough people will be purchasing single-use poppers to create a major environmental issue, it's still worth noting that these will go to landfill once used. 


Whether in the bedroom, dance floor, or dark room, you’ve now got more choices for getting your Rush™ in a way that works best for your situation. We hope that as more conversations happen in this space, that this list of options continues to expand, so keep an eye out for new developments. In the meantime: try not to spill, space out your hits, and keep things hot (but avoid fire!).



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