CANADA: Poppers are unauthorized and may pose serious health risks

Gouvernement du Canada

Health Canada is advising about unauthorized products promoted as « poppers » that may pose serious health risks. « Poppers » is a slang term for products that contain alkyl nitrites. Despite being labelled for various uses such as leather cleaners, room deodorizers or liquid incense, these products are inhaled or ingested by consumers for recreational purposes. Health Canada updates the table when it finds unauthorized poppers for sale in Canada. Links to previous tables with affected products are also available below.

Alkyl nitrites, such as amyl nitritebutyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite are prescription drugs and should be used only under the supervision of a health care professional. Products containing alkyl nitrites may pose serious risks, including death, depending on the amount used, how frequently they are used and how long they are used for, as well as the person’s health and the other medications they may be taking. Since it is difficult to control how much is inhaled, people can accidentally overdose. Swallowing these products can lead to serious medical complications and may be fatal. People with certain medical conditions (including recent head trauma, bleeding into the head, glaucoma, or heart disease) and those taking certain medications (particularly drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction, and other drugs such as high blood pressure medications, certain migraine drugs, and high doses of aspirin) or illicit drugs are at particular risk.

Unauthorized health products have not been approved by Health Canada, which means that they have not been assessed for safety, effectiveness and quality. Unauthorized health products can pose many health dangers, including:

  • They may contain ingredients not listed on the label. This includes ingredients like prescription drugs, possibly at doses exceeding maximum recommended amounts. Prescription drugs should be taken only under the supervision of a health professional because they may cause serious side effects. Using a product that contains ingredients that the consumer is not aware of increases the chance of dangerous allergies and interactions with other medications and foods.
  • The label may indicate a dangerous ingredient or combination of ingredients. For example, it could list a drug that should be available only by prescription from a health care professional, or a combination of ingredients that Health Canada does not permit because of serious health risks.

Health Canada maintains this page so that the public can easily identify products they may have purchased and take appropriate action. You are encouraged to check back regularly for updates. Advisories on safety issues involving other types of products are available in the recalls and safety alerts database.

What you should do

  • Stop using the products listed in the table. Consult your health care professional if you have used these products and have health concerns, and for advice on which health products are best for you and your family.
  • Read product labels to verify that health products have been authorized for sale by Health Canada. Authorized health products have an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN), Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Drug Number (DIN-HM). You can also check if products have been authorized for sale by searching Health Canada’s Drug Product Database and Licensed Natural Health Product Database.
  • Report any health product adverse events or complaints to Health Canada.

What companies should know:

  • Selling unauthorized health products in Canada is illegal.
  • When Health Canada identifies unauthorized products that may pose serious health risks, Health Canada takes appropriate action to prevent further distribution and informs the public. This includes working with the Canada Border Services Agency to help prevent further importation of unauthorized products.