"Poppers" are any of a variety of physiological-effect chemicals. Typically, they are some sort of n-nitrite compound, where 'n' is any convenient organic chemical. The original "poppers" were amyl nitrite, which came in small glass sphericals you 'popped' and then inhaled the vapors through your nostrils.
The common poppers found in sexual circles came in tiny amber bottles. Typically, these were sold as 'room deoderizers' or 'incense' (an absurdity, since they smell like used socks) and came in many names, such as "Rush," "Jolt," "Locker Room" (an honest name, at any rate), "Jack Hammer," ect. They were sold in adult bookstores.
Poppers are an inhalant, as n-nitrites have very low vapor points and become airborne almost immediately. The most common method of taking them is to simply open the bottle, hold it under one's nose, and inhale.
Amyl nitrite was defined as a 'medical use only' drug and its manufacture and sale made illegal. The manufacturers switched to butyl nitrite, then to i-butyl nitrite. The US [United States] finally passed a comprehensive legislation that, it appeared, covered all forms of n-nitrite. However, as of February  a version of poppers with the chemical form of "cyclohexylnitrite" has been available in the United States.
The -nitrite portion of the molecule is what affects you, regardless of what organic molecule it's attached to. The effects are the same regardless. The basic effect is to cause all of the muscles of the body to relax, which is why poppers were so popular among gay men-- they made anal intercourse easier. One of the related effects is vasodilation, or relaxation of blood vessels. This gives the user a warm sensation all over the body and causes large amounts of oxygen-bearing blood to rush through the brain, thus giving the user a "rush." The increase in oxygen also leads to a sudden intensification of current positive emotions, thus increasing one's lust and lack of inhibition, encouraging a sense of raw animal sexuality.
Some users, however, report an intense feeling of "falling" when taking the drug, a feeling that everything is spinning around. Others report that the body's overcompensation for the vasodilation effect gives them a massive headache.
It's funny that, for a drug so associated with sex, poppers dilate the blood vessels in the penis as well, making erection difficult.
Poppers are not physically addictive. The effect lasts for less than two minutes, typically, just long enough to facilitate penetration or terminate in ejaculation, and the chemical dissembles in the blood stream too quickly thereafter to physically addict. However, some people find the drug a welcome stimulant and become so dependent on them that they cannot climax any other way. (Believe me, I've tried poppers in the past, and it took a lot of self-discipline and self-restraint for me to control how "nice" they made orgasm feel. Personally, though, when I'm with a partner I prefer to have all my faculties about me, so I avoid anything like poppers, or even beer, when I'm going to be in bed with someone.)
People with heart problems should not use poppers, and it's widely agreed that people with supressed immune systems should avoid them as well. All forms of poppers are highly flammable; don't use them if you're smoking or have candles nearby. n-nitrites are harmful if swallowed and burn the skin (and mucous membranes of the nose if you're not careful).
In short, this is one of those things I seriously recommend against. But then, I tend to dislike anything that encourages self-destructive or otherwise unsafe sex, and during the 'high' a popper gives you, you may well forget to put a condom on, and you're taking your chances if you do.
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