As part of a sweeping update to UK drug policy, the British government has banned the sale of amyl nitrate, commonly known as "poppers," with dealers facing up to seven years in prison.
Other so-called "legal highs"—including nitrous oxide and synthetic cannabis—have also been outlawed as part of the Psychoactive Substances Bill, announced on Friday.
Poppers, which expand blood vessels and loosen involuntary muscles, have long been used by gay men to facilitate anal sex. They have also become a popular party drug, as they offer a potent, though brief, sense of euphoria.
As part of the new law, authorities have broader authority to shut down websites selling such drugs, called "new psychoactive substances" (NPSs). Previously, NPSs were addressed on a case-by-case basis.
"The landmark Bill will fundamentally change the way we tackle new psychoactive substances," said Policing Minister Mike Penning, "and put an end to the game of cat and mouse in which new drugs appear on the market more quickly than Government can identify and ban them."
Critics like former government drug adviser David Nutt say the move will simply push users to find new highs.
"It will make no difference. People will just go back to cocaine and heroin," said Nutt. "It is an extraordinarily simplistic and retrograde step. It won't reduce harms—it may well increase harms."
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