Poppers (alkyl nitrites) are vasodilators used by many gay men to relieve pain, enhance pleasure, and facilitate penetration during sex. Poppers have been studied by medical researchers since the 1980s, yet community-based and qualitative research remain uncommon. I conducted a critical interpretive synthesis examining the ways that the dominant medical model of health is influencing poppers literature. Analysis was performed using close coding of five papers, resulting in two constructs termed “responsible action” and “risk ratchetting”. Responsible action describes a bias in poppers research, resulting from researchers’ own senses of duty. Researcher duty is motivated not just by objective measures of risk, but by harmful stereotypes of gay men and people who use drugs. Risk ratcheting refers to aspects of academia that result in exaggeration of poppers-related risk over time. These constructs may provide a lens to more critically understand the poppers literature, and other bodies of marginal drug literature.
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