On Wednesday afternoon MPs in the House of Commons debated the Psychoactive Substances bill, which included a clause proposing the banning of alkyl nitrites, also known as ‘poppers’.
An amendment was proposed to exclude poppers from the list of banned substances, but was voted down by Tory MPs 309 against to 228 for.
As a result a ban on poppers will begin on 1 April 2016, meaning that those who are found guilty of selling them in the UK can face prison sentences as great as seven years.
This ruling comes despite advice from the Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, who concluded that alkyl nitrites are:
...not seen to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a societal problem.
This letter from the Advisory Committee of the Misuse of Drugs undermines the case pic.twitter.com/vb5yBVQVnL— Mike Freer MP (@mikefreermp) January 13, 2016
In addition, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee also recommended that poppers be excluded from the ban.
To see if your MP voted for or against banning the substances, see our interactive map below:
(Note: Red is a vote against the amendment, and for banning poppers, whereas black is a vote for the amendment, and against the ban)
Should you wish to see the vote in text form, you can see the full list of votes on publicwhip.org.uk.
Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine Specialist, Dr Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drug Survey, told i100:
Poppers sit in an unusual place in the NPS bill.
They are not new by any means, nor do they induce a high by changing the balance or activity of chemical transmitters in the brain as almost every other psychoactive drug by definition does (it's light-headedness is due to a drop in blood pressure that follows the dilation of blood vessels, which enhances penile erections and relaxation of smooth muscle in the anus).
They do carry a low level of risk when combined with other drugs and heavy use can cause vision problems.
Smart education, not blunt regulation, would be a better way to go. Once again, treating people who choose to use drugs as adults and being honest about pleasures and problems would be a better narrative to employ than trying to remove risk through bans.
In a letter to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, Home Office minister Mike Penning wrote that the bill could be changed at a later date after consultation, despite the vote on the amendment:
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.
Have you ever used poppers? Or any other substance for that matter? Take the Global Drug Survey 2016, here.