MP: 'Poppers debate was erratic and messy - a lot like sex'
PUBLISHED: 11:33 21 January 2016 | UPDATED: 19:26 22 January 2016
Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer has welcomed a decision to reconsider banning a legal high known as “poppers”, often used by gay men during sex.
Speaking in one of the more unusual Parliamentary debates in recent memory, Conservative Mr Freer told his fellow MPs why many gay men use poppers, scientifically known as alkyl nitrates.
The MP, who is gay and married, said: “This is not just about the physical side of the relationship.
“If your relationship wishes to be as intimate as possible and poppers facilitate that, that is an important element into the emotional wellbeing of that couple.”
Mr Freer claimed the chairman of the advisory committee on the misuse of drugs had told him he had seen no evidence that poppers were capable of causing harm.
He told the Commons he had received an email which claimed poppers had medicinal purposes, such as treating snake bites.
The email said: “Alkyl nitrites are carried and used when the need arises for adder bites.
“Apparently the use of poppers is shared by many people who work in the countryside as a first line of treatment if one is bitten by an adder.”
It continued: “A substantial number of people are bitten each year in Britain and the bite is rarely fatal. Whether that’s because the bite is fatal to normal healthy humans or whether the treatment of alkyl treatment or one of the other anti-venoms is immediately used is up for debate.”
Mr Freer called on the Commons to keep a sense of proportion, and to not ban things unless they posed a significant risk to a significant number of people.
Despite this, Mr Freer said he would be supporting the bill because he wants exemptions to be based on medical, empirical evidence.
Mr Freer was a leading campaigner for an amendment which could see poppers being banned in April and then “un-banned” in July.
After the debate, he wrote on Twitter: “The ‘poppers’ debate yesterday showed Govt is erratic, messy and one doesn’t always end up in the position intended. A bit like sex really.”
Poppers are currently legal for personal consumption, and campaigners argue that criminalising their use would unfairly discriminate against members of the gay community.
They are commonly sold in gay clubs and sex shops because the “head rush” they give is believed to enhance sexual stimulation.
In the lead-up to the debate, Mr Freer joined forces with MPs of all parties and representatives of businesses and charities to urge the Home Office to exempt poppers from the ban on psychoactive substances.
In response to a letter from the Home Affairs Select Committee, the government announced it would launch an immediate independent review into the safety of poppers.
Ahead of the debate, Mr Freer said: “I welcome this approach and that the government has responded positively to representations made by myself, Prowler, National Aids Trust and others.
“I am also pleased the government will move swiftly to conduct an immediate independent review into the medical evidence related to the recreational use of poppers.”
There is a list of things that are officially exempt under the psychoactive substances law – including alcohol, tobacco, nicotine and even nutmeg - and alkyl nitrates will be added to this list if they are found to be safe.