At Pride parades around the country this weekend, you might spot tiny, colorful bottles with unknown contents. They’re not micro energy drinks — they’re poppers, a choice drug among gay partiers for decades.

The 101 on Poppers

Alkyl nitrites (as poppers are formally known) relax your mind and some key parts of your body. A family of volatile chemicals, the drugs were originally used to treat chest pain. But in the 1960s and 70s, clever clubbers figured out that inhaling the drugs gave them a unique kind of high: They felt warm and tingly, had a brief sense of euphoria, and their typically tight sphincters totally unclenched.

That’s because when poppers are inhaled, the body turns them into nitric oxide, a chemical that opens blood vessels and causes blood pressure to drop dramatically. In response, the heart starts beating faster to bring the pressure back up. From the outside, you look flushed, excitable, and relaxed.

As Vice8 reported in a 2012 story, this makes them a choice drug for sex:

Q: Are they good for fucking?

A: Poppers are great for fucking. Why else do you think gays invented the stuff? They are especially great for getting fucked. What you won’t feel is that poppers loosen up all of your involuntary muscles, making a throat, vag, or butthole super easy to fill with a bunch of man meat (or whatever else you want to stick up there). That, combined with an intense desire to have every crevice of your body filled, means poppers are awesome for boning.

Where to Get Poppers

Alkyl nitrite is legal in the United States, so no illicit deals are necessary to get your hands on some poppers. You can order them online (but be careful about what site you choose) and most porn shops, especially those that service the gay community, will have a few bottles for sale on site.

Pop Responsibly

Even though poppers aren’t exactly illegal and can be purchased rather easily, they aren’t risk free. If you overdose, it’s likely to cause vomiting, trouble breathing, and excessively low blood pressure and fainting. Some studies suggest poppers can also do a number on your immune system, which may lead to a higher risk of HIV transmission among other problems. However, the science isn’t clear on whether the alkyl nitrites are the culprit, or if it’s all in the way we use them.

Photos via Wikimedia Commons