New government regulations are about to take effect, restricting the sale of nitrates or poppers to pharmacies.
The inhalants, used for their euphoric effects and muscle relaxation that can improve anal sex, are a fixture of the queer community and have long been available from sex on premises venues and adult shops.
From 1 February 2020, their sale will be restricted to pharmacies, with a prescription required for poppers other than amyl nitrate, which will be available over the counter.
A Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) spokesperson said that the LGBTIQ community had been consulted in developing the new regulations, Star Observer has reported.
“The February 2020 Poison Standard, including all of the proposed changes to alkyl nitrites, has been published and will take effect from 1 February 2020,” they said.
“Prior to making the decision, the TGA held two workshops in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as seeking public submissions, to better understand the views of the LGBTIQ community.
“The move of amyl nitrite to Schedule 3 (Pharmacist Only Medicine) will allow for easier access to products containing the substance, as a prescription will no longer be required.
“This may also encourage companies to consider supplying products into Australia.”
The changes were initially proposed as a full ban on the use, sale, or possession of poppers.
The community objected, with a petition against the changes gathering more than 5,000 signatures.
The new regulations to come into effect from February will still potentially put users at risk of discrimination, harassment, and privacy breaches, activists have noted.
Sexual health advocate Steve Spencer dubbed the “homophobic” changes a “war on bottoms”.
“It’s not a drug of dependence, nor is it addictive, and it has played a very important role as an enabler of affection, love, and exploration of one’s self and others,” he said.
“When gay men, bottoms, women, and young people need something to assist their pleasure and sexual enjoyment like poppers, they’re simply told tough luck.
“Their access to these things [is] denied and pushed underground, and any health consequences are blamed on the individual rather than any accountability being taken by the authorities that pushed us to this point.”
Poppers are generally considered relatively safe but can have adverse effects, especially if combined with other drugs or medications.