Saturday, June 12, 2010

Poppers Kill Gay Activist, Will Gay Community And Law Enforcement Wake Up?

An Atlanta gay activist died this week after inhaling poppers, an amyl nitrate inhalant popular in gay culture, while he was on the prescription drug Levitra. GA Voice reports on the death of Greg Barrett:

Friends and family of Greg Barrett came together at Christ Covenant MCC in Decatur June 7 to honor his life and remember his community volunteerism. Barrett died June 3.

Attendees remembered Barrett, 43, for his dedication to local nonprofit organizations as well on the impact he had on friends and family.

A long-time Atlanta Pride volunteer, Barrett was actively involved with several Atlanta-based nonprofit organizations, including the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus and AIDS Walk Atlanta.

JP Sheffield, executive director of Atlanta Pride, said of Barrett, “Greg was a really, really good man. I know Pride was really important to Greg, but everything he did was important. That’s the kind of character he had.”

“I can’t count the number of times Greg Barrett was there for me,” Sheffield said at the memorial service . . .

According to a police report obtained by Project Q Atlanta, Barrett was visiting a friend on June 2 and inhaled the recreational drug poppers and took a tablet of Levitra, a prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. When he did not wake the next morning, the friend called an ambulance; Barrett was dead at the scene.

Levitra warns that it should not be used with poppers. Police do not think Barrett’s death was the result of foul play, but they are awaiting the results of a toxicology report, Project Q reported.
Most people who use poppers have no idea that the recreational use of the inhalant can have deadly consequences and destroys the body's immune system over long-time use. Poppers have been popular in the gay community, in particular, since the 1970s. Users inhale small bottles of liquid purchased at gay bars, adult bookstores and over the Internet for about $12 to $14 for a quick high. They are often used during intercourse as a way of relaxing the anal muscle, making it easier for gay users to engage in rough sex. Many deaths from the use of poppers go unreported because medical examiners are unaware the decedent used them prior to dying and the death is attributed to other causes. In the case of Barrett's death, a witness was able to tell investigators that he had inhaled poppers while taking the prescription drug Levitra a short time before his death.

When the HIV/AIDS epidemic hit in the early 1980s, medical researchers initially believed poppers were a possible cause of the newly-discovered disease but later dismissed it as the cause, instead taking the position that a retrovirus spread through sexual contact and blood transfusions contaminated with the virus caused the deadly disease. Other researchers insist there is a causal link, however, between the use of poppers and Kaposi's sarcoma, a form of skin cancer often associated with gay men suffering from HIV/AIDS. While many believe the popularity of the inhalant's use has dropped off in the gay community, its use is actually more widespread than ever. Doctors fail to warn their patients of the danger posed to them when they combine the use of poppers with other prescription drugs. When Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and similar drugs became popular for treating erectile dysfunction, gay men began dropping dead after using poppers while on one of the prescription drugs. The combination of Viagra and poppers causes a sudden drop in blood pressure that can lead to death. Public health warnings were posted in gay bars several years ago warning about the deadly combination, but a wider public health campaign against the use of poppers never ensued.

Indianapolis has been home to a company that claimed to be the largest manufacturer of poppers in the world. Joe Miller's company manufactures Rush, which is the most popular popper drug being marketed. Miller, who is shown at left with the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson, has been a major benefactor of the Democratic Party and its candidates, and makes very generous contributions to organizations that help serve the HIV/AIDS population. An HIV/AIDS testing center at Indianapolis' Damien Center is named after Miller. City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes hosted an event last year at her home for the Stonewall Democrats which gave an award to Miller for his contributions. Miller once offered to match dollar for dollar every dollar raised by Indiana's Stonewall Democrats. Miller gave former Mayor Bart Peterson $10,000 in his unsuccessful re-election bid and has given thousands of dollars to U.S. Rep. Baron Hill (D) and the late-U.S. Rep. Julia Carson (D), who considered him a close campaign adviser. Peterson is now a top executive with Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Cialis.

The poppers industry once claimed to be the biggest money- maker in the gay world, grossing upwards of $50 million per year. At the peak of their popularity in the 1980s, gay publications generated substantial revenues they received from running full-page, four-color ads for the various brands of poppers. In a 1983 letter to the Advocate, Miller boasted that his Great Lakes Products, Inc. was the "largest advertiser in the Gay press". Gay publications later ceased advertising for poppers when they realized they were helping market a drug illegally that is essentially no different than advertising the sale of marijuana, cocaine, heroine or other controlled substances.

What many people don't understand is that poppers continue to be illegally distributed in the gay community and elsewhere as an inhalant drug. The possession of poppers is not illegal; however, they cannot be sold legally for human consumption without a physician's prescription. Manufacturers claim they are sold as room deodorizers or video head cleaner with a wink and a nod. Alkyl or amyl nitrates can only be used for human consumption if they are legally prescribed by a doctor for use in treating certain heart conditions, but even then, manufacturers of prescription drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis carry warnings to avoid taking the drug while using alkyl or amyl nitrates prescribed by a physician. Law enforcement in the United States has basically ignored the illegal sale of poppers in this country. As long as it's gays killing gays, who gives a shit. Right? A book entitled "Death Rush, Poppers and AIDS" warned gays about the deadly use of poppers. The book's authors write:

Poppers have become an accepted, even obligatory part of the gay male lifestyle. With regular use they become a sexual crutch, and many gay men are incapable of having sex, even masturbation, without the aid of poppers. Since poppers have become necessary for them to function sexually, giving them up ... would seem like giving up sex itself....

“Five different studies found that exposure to amyl or isobutyl nitrite, either through injection or inhalation, caused immunological deficiency in mice. One of those studies further found that the mice exposed to nitrite vapors suffered gross pathological lung damage, weight loss, and most significantly, reversed T-cell ratios.... In a sixth study, mice exposed to low dosages of isobutyl nitrite vapors developed methemoglobinemia and thymic atrophy.... Poppers are known to cause methemoglobinemia in humans. (Methemoglobinemia is a form of anemia where the blood turns brown and where the oxygen supply to critical organs is reduced.) ... Autopsies of AIDS victims show the thymus gland to be destroyed in 100% of the cases. No thymus gland, no immune system.

“A seventh mice study could not be carried through to completion. All of the mice died.”
As gays celebrate Pride events across the country during the month of June, they should heed the advice of people who have actually studied the harmful use of poppers and stop using them. It may cost them their life as Greg Barrett learned this week after it was too late.


Marycatherine Barton said...

Very timely powerful message, AI. Good luck getting those gay men who are thrill seekers, to stop taking poppers.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I would settle for the Indianapolis community not holding someone up on a pedestal that is not worthy of the honor, Marycatherine.

Kayann said...

Did not know this about Joe Miller; unfortunately, there's a lot I don't know (and am sure would find equally despicable, if I did) about most high dollar contributors financing the political campaigns of both parties.