The recreational drug Poppers can have “beneficial” health and relationship effects for men who want to have anal sex, a Home Office minister has admitted ahead of a vote on whether to ban the substance.
Alkyl nitrites, also known as Poppers, are set to be covered by the Government’s new Psychoactive Substances Bill, which seeks to ban so-called “legal highs”.
MPs will vote today on the third reading of the Bill, which gives police powers to enforce bans on a broad range of legal recreational drugs including Nitrous Oxide or “laughing gas”.
But in a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Mike Penning, the minister with responsibility for the issue, hinted that Poppers could be exempted at a later date even if the law was passed in full today.
“The Government recognises that representations have been made to the effect that ‘poppers’ have a beneficial health and relationship effect in enabling anal sex for some men who have sex with men, amid concern about the impact of the ban on these men,” he wrote.
“In consultation with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the Home Office will now consider whether there is evidence to support these claims and, if so, whether it is sufficient to justify exempting the alkyl nitrites group.
“The Bill enables the Home Secretary (after statutory consultation with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) … to add to the list of exempted substances to the Bill.”
Both the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs told the Government the drug should be exempt from the ban, but the Government has so far not taken up their advice.
During a debate in the House of Commons on the Bill, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt said he used Poppers, would be affected by the ban, and described the policy as “manifestly stupid”.
“There are sometimes when something is proposed which becomes personal to you and you realise the government is about to do something fantastically stupid. In those circumstances one has a duty to speak up,” Mr Blunt said
“I use poppers. I ‘out’ myself as a popper user and would be directly affected by this legislation and I am astonished to find it is proposing to be banned, so would very many other gay men.
Mr Blunt added that the new rule would “simply serves to bring the whole law into disrepute” and said “it was “manifestly stupid to go down the path we’re going”.
Poppers’ physical effects, which include a short-live high and the loosening of muscles, have been known to improve anal sex. The drugs are not thought to have significant adverse health effects.
While it is already illegal to sell the drug for human consumption they are often sold behind the bars of clubs and that cater to gay men.