Do Poppers Show Up On A Drug Test?

Being told that you need to take a drug test is always unpleasant news for anyone who takes drugs. If you use poppers, and you’re not familiar with drug testing procedures, it’s natural to wonder, do poppers show up on a drug test?

In this article, we’ll go over the most common reasons for drug testing and the types of drug tests used, and show you if those tests screen for poppers.

What Are Poppers?

What Are Poppers?

Poppers are chemicals in the alkyl nitrite family.

Amyl nitrite was the first of these substances to be developed in 1844, and in 1867 doctors began to use it medicinally to treat angina and chest pain. Other, more effective drugs have since been developed, and medicinal use is now far less common.

The use of amyl nitrite as a recreational drug took off in the 1960s, and due to the dangers associated with its use, lawmakers in the United States made it illegal to buy, sell, use, or possess amyl nitrite without a prescription.

This led to the development of other substances including, isopropyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, and butyl nitrite.

Over the years, because of increasing health concerns, congress also outlawed those nitrites.

Butyl nitrite was outlawed in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act. In 1990, all other nitrites not yet banned were outlawed when congress passed the Crime Control Act.

It’s still possible to purchase alkyl nitrites in the United States, however, because of a legal loophole. The chemicals can still be manufactured and sold as long as the products are not for human consumption. So poppers are often disguised as:

  • Air fresheners
  • Liquid incense
  • Deodorizers
  • Leather cleaners
  • Cosmetics
  • Solvents
  • Nail polish removers

Manufacturers label their products with names like Jungle Juice, Man Scent, Double Scorpio, and Rush, and cover up the otherwise offensive odor with sweet-smelling chemicals that mimic eucalyptus, peppermint, and honey.

Do Poppers Show Up On A Drug Test?

Do Poppers Show Up On A Drug Test?

The most common reasons you’ll ever be asked to take a drug test are for employment purposes, for sports testing, within the justice system as a condition of probation or parole, and during military recruitment and service.

Let’s go over employment drug testing first.

Employment Drug Testing

Do poppers show up on a drug test for employment purposes? No, they do not.

Employers usually opt for a 5-panel drug test, although some professions make use of a more thorough 10-drug panel.

The substances tested for on a 5-panel drug test are:

  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

A 10-panel drug screen also tests for:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)

There’s also the possibility of undergoing extended opiate testing for hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.

As you can see from the above lists, none of the substances tested include the chemicals used in poppers. So if you’re asked to take a drug test by your employer, or by a prospective employer, poppers will not be tested for.

Sports Drug Testing

There’s a long list of banned substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency list.

You can check the list for yourself by looking through the PDF that’s available at this link https://www.wada-ama.org/sites/default/files/2022-01/2022list_final_en_0.pdf

None of the alkyl nitrites appear on that list. If you’ve got a competition coming up where drug testing could be carried out, poppers will not be tested under anti-doping rules.

Parole and Probation Drug Testing

When you’re on probation or parole, you can be ordered to take a drug test at any time. This makes any illegal drug use incredibly risky because a positive test would be a violation of your parole or probation conditions, and would lead to serious consequences.

Do poppers show up on a drug test given for parole or probation? No, they don’t.

You’ll be tested using a 5-panel, 10-panel, or extended panel drug test.

The 5-panel test will screen for:

  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

The 10-panel test will screen for everything on the 5-panel test, as well as:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates
  • Methadone
  • Propoxyphene
  • Methaqualone (Quaaludes)

The extended parole or probation screen will also test for

  • Tramadol
  • Fentanyl
  • Meperidine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone

While poppers will not be tested, they are an illegal substance, and their sale, purchase, possession, and use, is an offenses.

Military Drug Testing

When you apply to join the military, you’ll need to pass a drug test at the Military Entrance Processing Station before you can attend boot camp.

Once you’re enlisted in the Army, Navy, Marines, Airforce, or Coastguard, you’ll have to take a drug test once a year, and you will also face random drug tests 3 times a year. National Guard and reserve members are required to take a drug test once every two years.

You’ll also be subject to probable cause drug testing.

The Department of Defense manual lists the substances tested for. These are:

  • Amphetamines and methamphetamine
  • Designer amphetamines (MDMA, Molly, Ecstacy, Adam)
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cannabinoids (Marijuana)
  • Synthetic Cannabinoids
  • Cocaine Metabolites
  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Fentanyl
  • Norfentanyl

From that list, you can see that poppers are not tested for. Possessing or using an illegal substance, however, could put you at risk of disciplinary proceedings.

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Why Are Poppers Illegal In the United States?

Why Are Poppers Illegal In the United States?

In some countries, poppers are not classed as illegal drugs, but in the United States, manufacturing, distributing, and selling poppers for human consumption is illegal. It’s also illegal to buy, possess, or use banned poppers.

The only poppers that can be used legally are ones containing cyclohexyl nitrite, although these are less popular because of the weakness of the effect produced upon inhalation when compared to amyl nitrite.

Poppers are also banned in Canada.

Let’s look at the situation in other western nations.

In Australia, poppers remain legal, although attempts were made to reclassify alkyl nitrites and place the drugs in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

Due to concerns raised by advocacy groups claiming that banning the use of poppers would be discriminatory to gay men, the reclassification attempt was dropped.

Within the European Union, poppers formulated from isopropyl nitrite are legal, while those made from isobutyl nitrite are banned.

Individual EU countries also have their own standards. In France, poppers made from butyl nitrite are also banned. The French government attempted to ban the wider range of alkyl nitrites, but the Council of State overturned the legislation and instead ruled that compulsory health warnings must be included on product labels.

In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, poppers are legal with the exception of amyl nitrite. The purchase, sale, or trade of amyl nitrite without permission is illegal.

In the United Kingdom, poppers are widely available although they cannot be sold for human consumption. Possession and use of poppers are not illegal. In 2020, the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, announced that she was considering making the sale of poppers for human consumption legal.

So as you can see the situation is very different in other western nations.

It’s impossible to say why the different standards exist, except to point to political concerns versus health concerns.

As you probably know, while poppers are gaining popularity as a party drug, poppers are most commonly used by gay men. And that’s where the political hot potato enters the room, and claims of discrimination muddy the waters.

But when health concerns override political maneuvering, as is the case in the United States, for the time being, the drugs remain illegal.

Judy McMeekin, the FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs holds a doctorate in Pharmacy. In McMeekin’s qualified opinion, poppers are dangerous drugs.

She states, “These chemicals can be caustic and damage the skin or other tissues they come in contact with, cause difficulty breathing, extreme drops in blood pressure, decreases in blood oxygen levels, seizures, heart arrhythmia, coma, and death. Do not ingest or inhale under any circumstances.”

Poppers sold in stores, or online under various guises, in the United States, are not regulated in any way. The products have not undergone any safety testing or purity testing. When you open the bottle, there’s no way to know what you’re actually inhaling.

Because of the illegal nature of these substances, when you use poppers, you’re trusting members of a criminal supply chain with your well-being.

The San Diego Addiction Treatment center mentions the following side effects and health concerns associated with popper use:

  • Unsteady gait
  • Loss of coordination
  • Trouble breathing
  • Rash around the mouth and nose
  • Nasal and oral tissue inflammation
  • Nosebleeds
  • Fatigue
  • Intense headache
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Violent behavior
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden death due to asphyxiation
  • Heart disease
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Brain damage
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Permanently slurred speech
  • Chronic physical tremors

Quick Recap

Poppers are a popular recreational drug in the United States where their use remains illegal.

Although the drugs are illegal, they are not among the substances tested for on employment drug tests, sports anti-doping drug tests, probation and parole drug tests, or military drug tests.

While poppers are illegal in the United States and in Canada, in other western countries, the sale and use of certain poppers are legal.

Health concerns remain an obstacle to the reclassification of poppers in the United States.

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