vol. 3, no. 7
april 1979 7
a guide for consumers
"Poppers" is the common name for the drug butyl nitrite. Well known in
the gay community, it is sold in small bottles or in mesh-covered crushable vials
in most adult bookstores, many headshops, and by mail order. Butyl may not'
legally be sold for human consumption, so each of these dozens of brand-name
products is sold as "liquid incense" or "room deodorizer" or "scent." This is
ironic because few people find the smell entirely pleasing.
Butyl nitrite is very similar to the medical drug amyl nitrite. Both are sometimes incorrectly called nitrates and one manufacturer labels hisj>roduct with a
complex chemical name which, nonetheless, translates into butyjjffTtrite. Differences in effect between butyl (the incense) and amyl (the prescription drug)
would seem to be minimal. More reports of minor side effects are encountered
with butyl, but these may be the result of impurities which do not occur in
pharmaceutically controlled amyl.
The nitrites are strong vasodilators. Blood vessels in the body are not rigid
pipes, but arc more like a system of valves capable of being opened or closed.
When the vessels are opened (dilated), blood may rush through them more
freely; if this happens in the face it is called blushing. With most people, vasodilation occurs over most of the body surface when they approach orgasm,
resulting in the well-known sexual flush.
Medically, nitrites are used to treat angina pectoris. When the arteries which
supply blood to the heart become narrowed by the deposit of sediment on the
inside walls - the way hot-water pipes are narrowed in hard-water areas - they
are no longer capable of delivering maximum blood supply to the heart. This
may not bother a person engaged in quiet activities, but in heavier activity or in
excitement, the heart's demand for blood may increase beyond the diseased
arteries' ability to supply it. The result is severe pain in the chest: angina pectoris. Nitrites have the ability to dilate these blood vessels temporarily and so
reverse the situation of insufficient blood supply to the heart.
by LARS EIGHNER
If the artery becomes completely blocked, however, then part of the heart
tissue is bound to die. This is called myocardial infarction - or heart attack —
and the possibility of its happening is why no one should attempt to treat chest
pains with nitrites except under close medical supervision.
The folks who sniff butyl nitrite in bookstores and discos, of course, do not
have angina pectoris. They sniff it for the rush.
Recreational use of nitrites seems to be telated to three factors. First,
nitrites produce a strong, hot, flushing sensation similar to the flush which
accompanies sexual activity. Many men identify this sensation as sexual, although not as many women experience it in this way. Variations of the effect
accompany many kinds of heavy activity such as fighting, wetghtlifting, and
other athletic endeavor.
Secondly, poppers are believed to be aphrodisiacs. Almost every psychoactive drug has at one time or another been thought to increase sexual drive
or ability. But the primary place of sexual arousal in human beings is not
between the legs; it is between the ears. Virtually anything will increase sex
drive and ability if the user believes it will. Nitrites do not directly cause men
to have erections. The many reports of this effect can be explained by the
mental association of the use of the drug with sexual activity.
Finally, nitrites usually cause a sensation of lightheadedness. This is related
to their vasodilator effects. The blood vessels in die body constitute a closed
container. A strong vasodilator causes the blood vessels to open up, which
amounts to making the container much larger. It a container gels larger, the
pressure of the enclosed fluid gets lower, so nitrites can suddenly reduce blood
pressure. When blood pressure goes down, there may not be sufficient force
for enough blood to overcome gravity and get to the brain.
Temporary drops in blood pressure are common and normal; they account
for the sensation of faintness that people sometimes experience when stand-
Continued on page 16.
DOING IN DOWNTOWN
austin's official approach
On December 8, 1977, the Austin City Council instructed the City Manager to
prepare an economic development plan for Downtown. This study, recently
approved by the Council, proposes a set of "development strategies designed
to halt the economic and physical deterioration of Central Austin." Although
the goals and objectives of the study are desirable, the strategies for achieving
them fail to break with the specious comfort of wishes, familiar superstitions.
and oversimplifications; they relate only minimally to the real world and ignore
the need for effective physical planning to create a continuous network of safe,
lively and interesting streets which foster public contact and encourage a variety of commerce, cultural opportunities and cultures.
The primary goal of the plan is to insure the fiscal health of the City. This
is a worthy goal which, in keeping with safe, lively, and interesting streets, can
be achieved through the encouragement of private entrepreneurship and small-
business activity. Commendably, the plan recognizes these methods, but also
proposes that the city "assist with land assembly" for large, single-use developments (office towers). Land assembly is objectionable because, to insure diversity, an area must serve more than one, and preferably more than two, primary
uses. These uses must insure the presence of people who go outdoors on different schedules and who are in the area for different purposes.
Office towers do not meet this criterion. Further, banks and office towers,
by function, lack a spread of people throughout the day (one of the main
current problems), and thus replace old stagnation with new. Mosi unfortunate,
the measure of success under the new plan is increased tax-base revenues (money
generated from a higher tax assessment of land and buildings), thus the downtown problem has become a problem not in social theory, community or psychology, but in bookkeeping. Downtown ceases to become a human creation
and becomes a commodity. Its achievements are not to be judged by architectural beauty, cultural inspiration and human association but by economic
productivity, taxable resources, and fiscal success. Urban ideology has become
by PHILLIP CONARD
Downtown Austin has the potential to become a well-balance,!, diversified
and exciting district. Wide choice and rich opportunity is the purpose ol cities.
Sixth Street is lively largely by virtue of its great collection of small elements.
This diversity not the bank lowers or City Hall has nude Downtown vibranl
The current city plan for Downtown redevelopment has lost sight of this
fact. This is its most tragic flaw us emphasis on economical!) viuHc mass
,"Bars, pornographic bookstores and other nuisance land uses can Ik found
along parts of Congress Avenue and Sixth Street. Although ihcsc uses are
not numerous, they and the patrons they attract act to deslro) whatever
wholesome environment the vicinity might otherwise possess."
"Strategics for the l.conomic Rcvilalizaiion ol ( cntral Austin," p. 66.
It is unfortunate that the Council chose to include this ; .
public opposition voiced a! the gearings. Then inclusion ol it
found misunderstanding of the purpose and potential of the Downtown area.
As foi the ■'nuisance" land uses and then pat rum. well. I live on Sixth St
somewhere between Mr. Peeper's and the Adult Siore.Thesc two establishments arc the only businesses tliar keep the street active (and ilteicforc safe.
relatively crime-lice, and interesting) twenty-fum hours even da\. What makes
Sixth Street successful is its diversity, twenty-foui hours a day.
Before following their plan closely, the On Council should break awa\
from their pscudoscjcncc of city planning and examine just what makes the
real world tick.
Copies of "Strategics lor the I con omit Revitalization of Central Austin"
maybe obtained from the Planning Department or by calling 477-651 I. Demand
a copy (they hesitate to give them freely): your tax dollars paid foi its pro*