Poppers 101: 5 Alternatives for Poppers

Mike Givens

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The day you’ve hoped for—and feared—has arrived: You’re ready to try banging that cutie for the first time. The nervousness you feel is palpable, and all the typical questions run through your head. 

  • “Should I douche?” 
  • “Will I enjoy this?” 
  • “Am I even capable of having a ding dong up my hole?” 

Of course, one of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself is how you’ll get some lucky guy’s gigglestick up your wonderful wazoo. Your nerves are jangling, and you know that you’re so on edge about bottoming that your bum is tighter than a bank vault.  

While a tight tushy is every top’s dream, it’ll be your worst nightmare having someone pound their pole into your fearful fanny. The pain could be unbearable! 

So the question is, how do you get your rump ready to take a rod? 

Well, we’ve already walked you through Poppers 101 in our previous article. We’ve told you how scientist Antoine Jérôme Balard stumbled across amyl nitrite in 1844 and how it made him dizzy. Through scientific advancement, it was classified within a group of compounds called alkyl nitrites. 

These compounds treat various health issues, from cyanide poisoning to a bad ticker; they also lower your blood pressure, circulate more blood, and loosen up your muscles—including that glorious muscle around your arsehole called the sphincter. 

So, yes, poppers are one possible way you can help loosen yourself up so your fanny can take a pounding. But it does have side effects. This drug can cause an overdose and death in some rare cases. 

In many countries, poppers occupy a gray space; the drug is sold in novelty and adult stores, but only for non-human use. It’s been referred to as leather cleaner and room deodorizer when marketed in these stores (with an implicit and sly wink and nod that lets you know its real purpose). 

So, yes, poppers are an option. But are there others? 

Are there other potential avenues you could travel down to make your hole less hostile and more hospitable? 

Well, we’ve got you covered. Here are just a few alternatives. 

Alternative 1: Foreplay

Foreplay usually gets short shrift in discussions around sex, but it really is an excellent relaxation method. 

Making out, massages, a hot shower together, edging, and playing with toys are great ways to not only turn you on but also take the stress down a notch or two. Playing with—and exploring—each other’s bodies is a great way to take the anxiety out of bottoming and release the nervousness that makes your sphincter shrink to the size of a molecule. 

Foreplay is the most natural way to help your body prepare itself for penetration. If you’re not good at it, now’s the time!

Just remember, take your time and be attentive to how your body is responding to being penetrated. Be open to having sex in different positions should one position make you uncomfortable. For example, it’s a common practice for the receptive partner to slowly sit on the penis of the penetrating partner, which allows the bottom to control how they’re entered and at what pace. Feel free to experiment and figure out what works best for you.  

Alternative 2: Get your meditation on

Did you know that studies show that a solid meditation practice can improve your sex life? Well, it’s true! 

Meditation, clearing one’s mind, focusing on the breath, or any other practice that helps you find balance, can help you have stronger orgasms, a higher libido, and healthier sexual experiences. Most importantly, it helps relieve stress and calm you down so that your bum can take a trip to Pound Town. 

Alternative 3: The delights of the dildo

No hard and fast rule says that you must work through your tight tush issues without a little specialized help. The invention of the dildo is the universe’s way of telling us that we can condition our butts to take a dong. 

We’re not talking about your grandmother’s dildo of years past. We’re talking about the current generation of dildos, which are more diverse and serve different purposes. Do your research, find a store—whether brick and mortar or online—and find a dildo that can help you prepare your bussy for a bonk. 

You have the agency to train yourself slowly and at your own pace. Start with a run-of-the-mill dildo and devote some quiet time to yourself to lube it up and play around with it for an hour or two. Take your time, play with yourself, and ensure that your purpose (getting used to an object up your bum hole) leads to pleasure (an incredible climax). 

You can be your own teacher and learn at your own speed. Eventually, you’ll have practiced enough to make your hole as plowable as a wheat field and as accommodating as a rural bed and breakfast. So, make a resolution to yourself: Every Wednesday evening after Bible study, you’ll go home and ride the dildo for 30 minutes! 

And guess what: It doesn’t have to be a dido. You can also use your finger or a sex toy. 

Alternative 4: Quality kush

Increasingly, cannabis is becoming the go-to for those who are looking to relax. With so many cannabis businesses popping up across North America, you’re sure to find a strain that will suit your relaxation needs. 

Studies have shown that Indica strains are the best to address pain relief. Ingesting a strain like G13 before sex can help mitigate pain; Master Kush is another that can help with relaxation. 

Then there’s lube, specifically, the burgeoning weed-infused lube industry. Consider Kush Queen, Foria, or Quim for your CBD-infused lube needs! They’re just waiting to take your hard-earned dollars for some lube that will get your hole wet and relax that sphincter muscle.

There are also CBD bath bombs so that you can soak up some relaxation while you give yourself that cleansing bath.

Alternative 5: Get your drink on!

If you feel like poppers won’t be your jam, consider some liquid courage. Let’s go back to high school biology, shall we? 

Alcohol is what’s technically called a depressant. This means that imbibing your favourite box of wine or that cherished can of Pabst Blue Ribbon is a means to slow down your central nervous system. Increased alcohol consumption can slow down cognitive functions and puts your body more at ease. 

Here’s the trick to using alcohol as a way to loosen your hole: Know your own body. Any adult who regularly drinks alcohol knows how many glasses of red wine it will take to get him tipsy. Responsible adults also know how many shots of tequila will have them hanging off the chandeliers. 

If you’re nervous about bottoming or being penetrated, consider having a moderate amount of an alcoholic beverage of your choice to take the proverbial edge off and help you loosen up (pun intended). 

But remember: Substance usage is a personal choice and only an option for those who are not struggling with any addiction issues. If you’re someone who struggles with alcoholism or drug abuse, another alternative that doesn’t involve substance use is preferable. 

Reducing risk from poppers

Look, you’re an adult. And as an adult, you have the right to govern your own body. If the five alternatives above don’t seem like a fit for you, and you’d rather shell out some cash for that little brown bottle, that’s your right.

We had a conversation with Jona Tanguay, a board member of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality and a practicing health care provider at Whitman-Walker Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center specializing in the care of sexual and gender diverse people. Tanguay is also the founder of ChemsexHarmReduction.org, an educational resource for those who engage in chemsex. 

“Chemsex” is “the use of substances before or during sexual intercourse to enhance or facilitate the experience,” according to Tanguay’s website. And before you start looking down your nose at chemsexers, think about this: “Substances” are more than just the ones mainstream society has deemed as illicit like cocaine, LSD, or even poppers. 

Alcohol, cannabis, and plain old-fashioned cigarettes are all substances that many use to make sex more enjoyable (and yes, now you know why your aunt Margaret always had a cigarette before heading to bed!). 

Tanguay (they/them pronouns) provides some pearls of wisdom for those who use—or are considering using—poppers: 

  • Do your research—“Websites like chemsex.gay, tweaker.org, and dancesafe.org have helpful safety information...” 
  • Know what makes it risky—“The main thing to remember is that poppers should never be used in combination with PDE5 inhibitors like sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis). Poppers cause an acute drop in blood pressure as they dilate or expand your blood vessels. This causes that warm and flushed feeling. But in combination with PDE5 inhibitors, it can cause fainting or even death. They should also not be combined with other nitrate medications. For people that have heart problems or issues with low blood pressure, they are likely not a good idea.” It's also recommended that you look into PrEP for reducing other risks like HIV infection. For those with pre-existing conditions, Descovy is now an alternative to Truvada as PrEP.
  • Use sparingly—“Excessive or extreme use should be avoided as with any substance, as more serious side effects can occur.”
  • Understand how to use it correctly—“Other basic safety information includes avoiding skin contact or ingestion as poppers are caustic; make sure to keep them away from open flames as poppers are flammable.” 

If you take anything away from what we’re telling you, it’s this: Your body is yours to use how you please. 

If you want to experiment with chemsex—or already engage in it—know what the dos and don’ts are so that your experience is as pleasant and safe as possible! For those that want to loosen up during sex but don’t want to take on the increased health risks, there are options for you as well!

Need some more information on poppers before you make up your mind? In Part 3, we’ll go a bit deeper into how poppers intersect with the queer community. 


  • https://healthycanadians.gc.ca/recall-alert-rappel-avis/hc-sc/2013/34343a-eng.php
  • https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-16857/5-ways-meditation-can-help-you-have-mindblowing-sex.html
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/best-strains-for-sex#for-pain
  • https://www.prevention.com/sex/g33767458/best-cbd-lube/
  • https://www.health.com/mind-body/best-cbd-bath-bombs
  • http://www.glma.org/
  • https://www.whitman-walker.org/
  • https://www.chemsexharmreduction.org/
Written by:
Mike Givens

Mike Givens received his bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and English Literature from Virginia Tech. He has a master’s degree in investigative journalism from Boston University. He is a social justice advocate and is the full-time communications director for an international human rights organization in New England. He spends his spare time writing on a range of issues, from LGBTQ+ rights and income inequality to sexual health and politics. He is also a freelance copyeditor.