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.
Common brands of ethyl chloride spray so you can recognise and avoid them:
Ethyl chloride is a synthetic chemical that was used during the 20th century for various reasons, among them to induce general anaesthesia for hospital surgery, and to treat superficial injuries, eg. during sports. The latter use required it to be sprayable onto the skin, and it is this spray that some doofus fister somewhere at some point (back in the 70s I guess?) sprayed it onto a cloth and breathed it in, just like people sniff paint to get high. 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. People take it for the same reasons as taking poppers, to take the edge off, which is why the two are often confused. So far so good, right? WRONG, bitch! Poppers and ethyl chloride spray are vastly different substances that interact with the body in vastly different ways. Poppers are not nervous system related: they simply dilate the blood vessels, which improves blood flow and relaxes sphincter muscles.
Where poppers have been proven to not be deadly, inhaling ethyl chloride has been proven to be responsible for killing people. Poppers = ok. Maximum Impact spray = death in a can.
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 (read “Deep Sniff: a History of Poppers and Queer Futures” by the wonderful Adam Zmith). The masculine thrill of Maximum Impact, Hardware and Thunderbolt lure us in cunningly.
Also not helpful is that due to privacy reasons in coronary reports, researchers are prevented from being able to compile statistics on sex drug related deaths of any kind. If someone knows otherwise, please let me know, but this is my understanding. The studies that do exist documenting these deaths can only provide isolated case studies. This means we don’t even know the rate at which people in our community are dying from this drug.
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 suddenly amazing, no lie. I was taking huge doubles from a guy I love, 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. Not only is it about the death of someone I knew, but it is about the mortality of us all in the pursuit of pleasure. Death and sex, a bizarre combination linked in many ways, both extreme, both ultimate, both suggesting danger and thrill. As fisters we are probably confronted with the idea of death by sex 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 has a bowel perforation (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. My stance these days is to acknowledge and have respect for the inherent risk and play accordingly, and to minimize any extra, unnecessary risk. This means staying away from drugs that are going to increase risk significantly, such as this fucking spray.
There are 4 more things I want to share with you:
– More detailed info about how the spray works;
– 8 Testimonlials
– Final thoughts – starting a movement
– Further reading
More detailed info about how the spray works WebMD says:
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
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.
Be responsible for each other.