The death of a GLBT equality advocate has reportedly been attributed to a mix of poppers and a drug for erectile dysfunction.
Gregg Barrett, a longtime volunteer with gay organizations such as the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, Atlanta’s AIDS Walk, and Atlanta Pride, had been visiting a friend when he combined poppers with Levitra, reported the Georgia Voice on June 11. The next morning, Barrett was dead, having apparently succumbed while sleeping. The article said that Levitra advises against using the drug together with poppers.
Individuals seeking to enhance sexual pleasure inhale fumes from chemicals known as alkyl nitrites, which are used in various medical and commercial applications, including as ingredients for aerosol deodorants such as room fresheners, according to a Wikipedia article. The effect of the chemicals is to increase blood flow and relax sphincter muscles, leading to a brief increase in sexual pleasure. Though long-term abuse of such substances have been linked to an array of health issues, occasional use seems to pose little risk, unless the chemicals are ingested or combined with drugs designed to counter erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, which warn consumers not to use poppers while taking their products.
GLBT advocacy site Advance Indiana posted the story on June 12, under a headline that asked, "Will Gay Community and Law Enforcement Wake Up?" The article noted that use of poppers can make "rough sex" easier and less uncomfortable.
A PDF document on the risks of using poppers for sexual purposes is available from Project Neon.org. The document details, in plain language, how use of poppers can increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.
"When you’re high you may lose good judgment," the document warns, adding, "Guys who use crystal or poppers tend to have more sex with more partners." Additionally, the physiological effects of such drugs also play a role in increasing disease transmission: "Poppers open blood vessels, sending more blood to areas like your dick and ass," the text explains. ""This makes it easier for HIS and other STDs to get into your bloodstream."
Since poppers are often used at circuit parties and other social events, the text went on to look at how "Crystal, alcohol, or all-night dancing and sex can dehydrate you and dry up the natural lubricant in your butt. A dry cracked butt is a welcome matt for viruses and germs."
Poppers also play a more direct role in increasing the risk of unprotected anal sex: "Poppers and crystal meth can each reduce the pain of anal sex," the text notes. "But long, hard butt sex beyond your normal limits can create small tears and more openings for HIV."
The document also warns that combining poppers with crystal meth can over-tax the heart and cardiovascular system.
Barrett served as the operations chair for Atlanta Pride. "In short, he was personally responsible for every other committee’s needs, and the operations center was ground zero for any issue during the festival," said the executive director of Atlanta Pride, JP Sheffield, a June 4 article at Project Q Atlanta said. "Power outages, chairs needed, anything at all, that call went to Greg. It was a really, really tough job.
"I can’t even think abut how we’re going to make due yet," added Sheffield. "It’s not just about losing someone who did a good job, but he had an institutional history of what worked and what didn’t work. You can’t replace that kind of knowledge. You can’t have another Greg."
Barrett is survived by his life partner, Tim Garrett.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.