The proposed ‘War on Bottoms’ continues.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) finally introduces the “February 2020 Poisons Standard” which aims to regulate the sale of poppers through a pharmacist solely.
Here’s what you may have missed since February kicked off.
Since going into effect from February 1, the “February 2020 Poisons Standard” has hoped to see the Schedule 4 classed isobutyl nitrites, the common compound in poppers, move from being sold in adult shops and sex-on-premises venues as ‘leather-cleaner’ to being sold through a qualified health practitioner instead.
While products containing isobutyl nitrites were already regulated as prescription-only medicines for therapeutic use in the December 2019 Poisons Standard, the February 1 updates have moved amyl nitrites, a specific type of nitrite, to Schedule 3, meaning it can specifically be sold at pharmacies without the need for a prescription.
So after nearly three weeks of alleged nitrite migration, has anything actually changed?
After the team at Star Observer scoured Sydney’s City and Inner-West – and checked in with our Melbourne sources as well – we found out that old habits are going to die hard.
Firstly, where can you currently get poppers?
PEDESTRIAN.TV. Writer, Joshua Badge made clear that while you can still obtain isobutyl nitrite if your doctor gives you a prescription, it doesn’t seem to be the most accessible avenue you can take.
“Many (straight) doctors are unfamiliar with the therapeutic benefits and might hesitate to prescribe poppers. I found it next-to-impossible to obtain a prescription just last year due to confusion among medical professionals,’ Badge wrote.
However, if you do obtain isobutyl poppers than be careful because buying, owning and sharing these poppers without a prescription is a criminal offence, and as these new changes are still fresh for law enforcement, it is unlikely you will receive a simple slap on the wrist if you’re caught.
Poppers, also called ‘amyl’, though this refers to a specific type of nitrite, are an alkyl nitrite contained in a small opaque bottle. When the fumes are inhaled, you get a euphoric head-rush, relaxed muscles and dilated blood vessels which makes anal sex more comfortable.
As well as being used by LGBTQI people for sex, the heady-tingle makes poppers a popular party substance.
From Darlinghurst to Newtown, the availability of poppers and the places that sell them has changed.
Firstly, some of your favourite sex shops will have stopped selling poppers of all kinds. Newtown and Darlinghurst have been hit worst by the “February 2020 Poisons Standard” with customer-favourite stores such as Max Black in Newtown now refusing to sell the little brown bottles. Other sex shops in the Darlinghurst region have also stopped selling. However, not all hope is lost.
Other shops in Newtown and Darlinghurst, who wish not to be named for legal reasons, are still selling poppers by the pound – albeit now having to implement an under-the-counter experience with customers. Some also reported that they were in the process of re-ordering, as a few individuals had bought out their entire stock towards the end of January.
Yet, pharmacies are still taking time to catch-up as therapeutic medicines, such as poppers, must go through an extensive approval process with the TGA, as they’re the ones approving the health and safety of drugs.
However, not a single ‘medicine’ has been approved for sale in pharmacies by the TGA as actual amyl hasn’t been available in Australia for years, and many pharmacists did not even know what poppers are.
“I don’t know what they are,” said one pharmacist in Surry Hills who wished not to be named. “If they’re going to be good for business then I’ll have to do a bit of research first but, I don’t know if that’s a product that we would sell here.”
“We’re a family-pharmacy. A lot of us are family businesses.”
CEO of Thorne Harbour Health Simon Ruth told PEDESTRIAN.TV that, while supplies are in the pipeline for the Aussie pharmacy market, we could still be waiting a while before poppers come back.
“We’re aware of an overseas supplier working on getting a product to the Australian market,” he said.
“But this will take many months, potentially years, due to the regulatory processes and requirements.”
Many people who regularly use poppers for anal sex are furious to say the least. One man who wished to remain unnamed told the Star Observer that while the TGA’s intentions were in the right place, these protective measures are going to have a much more severe impact on overall public health.
“It’s not looking good,” he said
“I understand the need for pharmacy intervention, and it does mean that there’s more safety around what’s in them [poppers] and how to use them.
“But they aren’t available at any pharmacies yet, I’ve bloody checked all over. So right now I still get mine at my local sex shop, but we have to go to the back room and everything. Melbourne has always been a bit iffy, you could only get them from ‘leather shops’ and if you look at Sydney, we know that definitely hasn’t changed too much.
“I mean, it’s classic government hot-headedness – you make these rules but give no way for them to be properly practiced. It’s that classic Aussie political disorganisation.
“I also have mates in their late 40s who would definitely rather take a seedy backroom with the unsafe shit than go into a pharmacy. Sex shops offer protection for people who aren’t entirely comfortable with the public knowing what they’re up to. The same thing applies here.”
For more information about the Star’s ‘War on Bottoms’ coverage, please click here.
For all the latest LGBTQI news from the Star Observer, click here.