My aim here is to inform about and to discourage the use of ethyl chloride sprays. If you are triggered by drug use and overdose, consider carefully whether you want to read this, especially the testimonials quoted further down in the article.
Ethyl chloride is a chemical that is used among some fisters to enhance the ability to take and the feeling of taking a fist. If inhaled, it enables depression of the central nervous system, allowing the anal muscles as well as inner guts to be stretched further without pain. In the fisting community it is used as an inhalant spray, and people take it for the same reasons as taking poppers, which is why the two are often confused. They are however vastly different substances that interact with the body in different ways, and where poppers has been proven to not be deadly, inhaling ethyl chloride has been proven to be responsible for killing people. As far as I know, the spray has been popular for fist bottoms within the last 10 to 15 years.
The sickest part is that there are companies that market the spray legally towards gay men, despite the evidence that it is deadly. All praise capitalism. It’s a similar progression to the poppers marketing explosion that happened over the last 50 years, the difference being that poppers are not a cause of death unless you drink them. There is a legal black hole regarding both the spray and poppers, though ethyl chloride has been linked to death in a number of studies (see further reading at the bottom of this page). Release of proper statistics around sex drug related deaths is problematic, as these records are most often kept private. The studies that exist to document these deaths provide limited case studies rather than being able to represent statistics. This means we don’t even know the rate at which people in our community are dying from this drug.
Brands of ethyl chloride spray
So you can recognise them:
Dr. Henning’s Spray
Hardware (not to be confused with Hardware poppers)
It’s personal for me. I tried taking ethyl chloride spray a few times over the past 10 years, as I was curious about what kind of feeling it could enable and how it might be helpful for the chasm I wanted to create inside my butt. My first attempts were rubbish – I just went completely numb inside and wasn’t into the feeling at all. For that reason I would go for a year or more without trying it again, but the curiosity always crept back. The final time I ever tried it, it was amazing, no lie. I was taking huge doubles from a guy I love, and was having the time of my life. After the fisting party ended and everyone went to bed, I was so hooked on the feeling and result that I even continued playing secretly with some toys in the playroom alone, huffing on the spray as well as sniffing poppers for over an hour. Following this experience I became more curious to learn about this substance, and that is when I first read recounts online of people dying suddenly while using ethyl chloride spray. You can read some of these accounts from partners and friends of victims further below. Knowing what I know now, it is a small miracle I didn’t die during that session. Then last year I heard via twitter that a fisting friend in New York died while playing alone, huffing ethyl chloride spray. He was 42 years old. His partner and I got in contact, and he told me all about what happened, and how he wanted to get the information out into the community that this substance kills.
I have tried writing this blog post so many times. This issue is the most serious thing I have ever tried writing about on my blog. Not only is it about the death of someone I knew, but it is about the life and death of us all in the pursuit of pleasure. Death and sex, a bizarre and prevalent combination. As fisters, it’s something we learn to confront sooner or later, whether it be someone you know overdoses on drugs during fisting (I do not endorse drug use for sex, but aim to always reflect how the community is), or the possibility of a bowel injury (heard of another one just today). I have had a big long reflection in recent years around both of these aspects that bring death close to our pleasure. Maybe this time, I’ll finish writing this and actually be satisfied enough to post it on the blog. I hope I can help save some lives – maybe yours or the people you play with.
What is it and how does it work?
This medication is used to prevent pain caused by injections and minor surgical procedures. It is also used for the temporary relief of minor sports injuries. Ethyl chloride also helps to relieve deep muscle pain when used with muscle stretching techniques. Ethyl chloride is a cooling substance that is applied to the skin to numb it. This medication is for use on the skin only. It is applied by a healthcare professional. Do not apply to broken skin or mucous membranes (such as inside the nose or mouth). Do not spray into the eyes. Do not inhale the spray.
So you can see why it’s helpful for stretching out your bott-bott. Notice how the guidelines say it’s for use on the skin only. Reminds you of poppers already, with its advice to use it as a room odouriser or to clean your DVDs. Maybe this is also why we are willing to ignore the advice – we have practice with that already with poppers, and that turned out fine. And just like poppers, people take it via breathing it into the lungs (from a cloth), and the effect hits your nervous system in no time. But the exchange that happens in your lungs causes a potentially deadly problem. My rudimentary understanding of science doesn’t allow for any better an explanation than this: the spray freezes or incapacitates the insides of the lungs, making the regular uptake of oxygen into the bloodstream difficult. The more you spray, the less functional your lungs become. Spray enough, or in the wrong circumstances, and your body is unable to receive a minimum requirement of oxygen, leading to complications such as heart attack and stroke. If your lungs aren’t able to get oxygen for longer than 4-6 mins, we’re talking death – the so-called sudden sniffing death also attributed towards sniffing paint, glue etc. Ethyl chloride seems to also be capable of causing other complications such as anemia and heart arrhythmia.
Personal testimonials from an online forum
In my search for personal recounts I found a forum on poppersguide.com specifically about people’s experiences using ethyl chloride sprays. Below are some that I really want to share with you. Many statements involve death, addiction and brain damage, so consider yourself warned. Remember also that these are people from our own community. This is so close to home. I also noticed first-hand how difficult it was to leave the spray can alone that one time, and though the temptation still exists now, reading these comments is enough to help me distance myself from the substance and not use it. I must stress my recommendation that you do the same.
Testimonials retrieved from http://poppersguide.com/forum/10075
Maximum Impact is death in a can. My husband is addicted to that outrageously priced product and he is a mess. He doesn’t even do it for sex, but just huffs it. The aerosol needs to be banned. It leads to huffing Computer Duster…It leads to Death.
My partner died June 28th from using it. It’s called Sudden Sniffing Death.
24. March 2017: My partner was using maximum impact and poppers for years before i met him. We used them during sex and I was worried he used too many, he would basically pass out. Then about three years into our relationship I discovered him in the bathtub using them. I thought he was getting ready to play with someone else, he was not. He did them by himself. He hurt himself many times, hot water burns, scrapes, cuts, I heard him fall in the next room, had to come in and pull the soaked cloth out of his clenched teeth. I begged and threatened and tried to get him to stop. I thought he did, more than once. We stopped using it together at all. Twice after that he showed up with slurred speech for several days, it was aphasia. He came out of it both times. I was so angry. I thought we were doing well, he said he was seeing a therapist. One night recently he didn’t come home. He was found dead in a no-tell motel, he had been using inhalants. Dead. This addiction went on for more than the decade I knew him. He. Is Now. Dead.
When I tried Max Impact I loved it, but I have heard of sudden sniffing death which makes me weary of continuing to use it. I also looked at the ingredients on the bottle and found that there were carcinogens (cancer causing agents) inside it, which also made me nervous. Does anyone know if alternatives like Bolt are prone to the same dangers? I loved the way it felt but I also enjoy being alive…
Pharmaceutically it is an anesthetic and prolonged or habitual use can lead to neurotoxicity or neural damage. I’ve read that the effects will go away after a period of time, but other medical papers on its toxicity aren’t as clear. Second issue is one of its anesthesia effects. Heavy use or breathing in too high of a concentration can render you unconscious with possible lethal consequences. Another side effect is that when you go out you may vomit all over and your bowels and bladder may release with decidedly messy consequences. If you inhale/aspirate your vomit you could also suffocate. As an anesthesia while you do get “high” or euphoric, it also may deaden your sexual arousal as apposed to poppers (nitrate inhalants). Be careful and used in a well ventilated area.
I use poppers Nitrate based poppers. Was seriously curious about Maximum impact and I showed up to a hook up where I witnessed a beautiful black stud built like a god, take a hit of maximum impact and he experienced a siezure like episode and he had two of them relating to his immediate inhalation. I believe he will die from his use if he doesn’t stop. I love my community of men and I want us to have fun, but after burying 47 friends from AIDS I refuse to not ask ouselves WTF are we doing. These are extroadinarily dangerous. Please dont use them .I am not judging just scared I will lose more friends and this data is in. They are not worth the dangerous risk.
I was using maximum impact, I noticed a pulsating behind my left ear after using it. I seen my doctor had Test’s done. Turned out the maximum impact had actually killed off my red blood cells causing anaemia. I spent 5 days in hospital having three blood transfusions and one iron infusion.
Please take my warning DO NOTuse maximum impact or other brands.
It’s deadly to humans.
ethyl chloride is an industrial solvent. it is NOT poppers. it’s known to cause sudden death. it sensitizes the heart to stimulants and can causes fatal arrhythmia. all that is in addition to permanent brain and peripheral nerve damage. you might as well be sniffing glue or K2r.
The big question is what to do in the community to stop us from becoming addicted to and dying from this substance. Ultimately all you can do is educate yourself, consider the consequences for yourself and your partners, have open conversations, and decide what your boundaries are. This big question of course applies to all drugs that you might be confronted with during play. I won’t lie when I say I have made and continue to make decisions which are borderline destructive behavour, but the older I get the better I finetune where my hard lines are, and I develop failsafes to stop where I would have otherwise continued, be it with poppers, rough fisting, other drugs, or the company I’m amongst. Take the time to reflect and decide where you want your hard lines to be. It can be difficult, because sometimes it means giving up a great pleasure that you think you can’t live without. But you can and you will. Also, don’t make yourself wrong for your habits – you’re a human being!
If you think you have signs of addictive behaviour and would like help, there are plenty of programs to apply to.
Alcoholics Anonymous will also handle addictions to other things such as drugs, gambling and sex addiction, as will Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
Alternatively, speak to your local health department for advice on where to go to get help for addiction and substance use.
The start of a movement?
One good thing came out of research and discussion together with a friend in Berlin. In the biggest pharmacy on the traditional gay street in Schöneberg, we noticed that ethyl chloride spray was displayed prominently on the gay shelf, together with other sex supplies such as lube, gloves and condoms. Though the pharmacy never admitted to knowing what they were doing, it was pretty obvious that this was being marketed towards gay men. With some pushy correspondence between my friend and the pharmacy, they eventually removed it from its prominent position in the gay section, thereby at the very least no longer promoting its use as a sex drug. One step at a time! Consider visiting your local pharmacies to get the ball rolling there, too.
Take care of each other.