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What are the Effects of Amyl Nitrate?

author image Shelley Moore
Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.
What are the Effects of Amyl Nitrate?
Pharmacist filling a prescription Photo Credit: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images

People commonly confuse the terms amyl nitrate and amyl nitrite, as both substances are used as street drugs for recreational purposes. Amyl nitrate is a chemical often used as a fuel additive, while amyl nitrite is a prescription medication commonly prescribed for treating angina. Recreational use of amyl nitrate involves inhaling this substance for short-term intoxication effects, a practice known as huffing. Inhaling amyl nitrate can be very dangerous.

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Inhaling amyl nitrate causes brief intoxication. Effects as listed by the American Council on Drug Education can include excitability, giddiness, lowering of inhibitions and heightened sensual awareness. The effects typically last less than a minute, leading the individual to keep taking more hits.

Outward Signs

An individual who has been inhaling amyl nitrate can have develop outward signs as well, according to the ACDE. He might have slurred speech, lack of coordination, an unsteady gait, inflamed nose, nosebleeds, sores or a rash around the nose and mouth, and red, glassy, watery eyes.

Serious Effects

Prolonged huffing of amyl nitrate can cause more serious symptoms. The individual may experience dizziness, fatigue, a pounding headache, nausea and vomiting, and might even fall into a coma. Memory problems, confusion, difficulty concentrating, disorientation, fright, panic, delirium and hallucinations can occur. These psychological reactions can lead to risky or violent behavior.


Heart failure and death can occur in people using inhalant substances such as amyl nitrate. "Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome" causes death by suffocation after huffing. SSDS can occur the first time somebody uses inhalants, even if she's healthy and in perfect physical condition, according to the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

Permanent Body Damage

Continued use of amyl nitrate can lead to permanent damage to the brain, bones, heart, kidneys and liver, as explained by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. It may cause permanent hearing loss, as well as chronic tremors and slurred speech. Continued use can also result in chronic memory loss, emotional instability, mental disturbance and ongoing hallucinations.

Drug Interaction

People should never inhale amyl nitrate while also taking sildenafil, commonly known as the brand-name prescription drug Viagra, according to Sildenafil is a drug used to treat erectile dysfunction. The combination can cause a severe drop in blood pressure, resulting in fainting, stroke or heart attack.

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