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The internet is swirling with reports that Madonna took poppers mid-conversation on a TikTok live stream Thursday with content creator Terri Joe. In video recordings of the live stream, Madonna appears to sniff something from a small bottle, and Terri Joe asks her directly, “Is that poppers?!” Madonna responds, “No!” and the two go on to discuss music and Lady Gaga‘s 2011 track “Judas” — but not before Madonna comments, “Whoa, everything’s different right now.”
Whether or not Madonna was actually doing poppers, it does have people wondering: what even are poppers again, and why do people like them so much?
Not Madonna doing poppers on TikTok live 💀 pic.twitter.com/6qs07eH5It
— Rap Alert ➐ (@rapalert1OO) October 27, 2022
Poppers are mostly known as a type of party drug, often associated with raving, sex, and gay hookup culture. Poppers may not be as popular as they used to be, but they’re certainly a pop culture mainstay, frequently referenced in the original 2000s-era “Queer as Folk” series and even featured in a recent New York Times story on the drug’s move from gay subculture to party girl aesthetic. (It’s also worth noting that Madonna has spent a lifetime associating herself — welcome or not — with the queer community.)
Poppers are really just amyl nitrite, a liquid chemical that produces strong-smelling vapors that you would then, well, sniff.
LGBTQ+ health specialist Henry Ng, MD, told Cleveland Clinic, “Poppers are a product that’s been used to enhance sexual experience and function for quite some time. But there are concerns that the use of poppers for sexual pleasure can have negative side effects that people haven’t been talking about or might not be aware of.”
The side effects can be pretty rough. While some people feel a headrush of euphoria (lasting a few minutes at most), others experience intense headaches, nausea, or dizziness. More severe side effects include fainting and tachycardia (or rapid heartbeat), and if used in combination with certain medications that affect blood pressure, heart health, or erectile dysfunction, Cleveland Clinic reports possible stroke, heart attack, or death from poppers.
Despite the risks, some people still use and enjoy poppers. They’re easy enough to get (they’re sold in retail and sex shops often as “nail polish remover” or “leather polish”), but — like any potentially harmful substance — you should be careful, know the risks, and minimize the harm possible before deciding to use poppers. We may never know what happened on the other side of Madonna’s screen, but it’s probably best to skip the poppers altogether — especially on a live stream.
Image Source: Getty / Fred Duval