Are Smelling Salts (Ammonia) Legal?


When it comes to supplements and performance-enhancing drugs, there are many questions about whether or not these supplements are legal to take. So, are smelling salts legal?

The quick answer is yes, ammonia smelling salts are completely legal to possess and use. In the United States, there are no laws restricting them, and every major weightlifting/powerlifting organization allows them to be used in competitions.

While smelling salts may be legal, there are a few caveats you might want to learn about before you start using them.

Yes, Ammonia Smelling Salts Are Legal

Hockey player sniffing ammonia at a game.

Before I get into the complexities of ammonia, here’s a quick refresher on smelling salts. Ammonia has been used since Victorian times in the medical field, originally to wake up people that lost consciousness. Today, they’re still used by doctors and emergency services for that purpose, only now, they’re used in the weightlifting and sports industries as well.

Competitive weightlifters and powerlifters use ammonia to get more energy and to be able to lift more weight for a short period of time. If you need a wider description of smelling salts, check out this article I wrote on why lifters sniff ammonia.Opens in a new tab.

Now, onto the legalities. As I mentioned earlier, there are no laws in the United States restricting the use of ammonia or smelling salts in any way. Smelling salts may have a drug-like effect, but they’re completely legal to use and own.

Aside from their legalities with the government, many people are interested in whether or not powerlifting and weightlifting organizations allow them at meets and competitions. The truth is that no major organization bans the use of ammonia, and if you’re a competitive strength athlete, you’re most likely able to use smelling salts, even at meets.

Of course, you should still check your local laws and check your competition’s organization before you use ammonia. Just because most organizations allow them, doesn’t mean every single one will.

On top of lifting competitions, many other sports use ammonia, like hockey, football, and boxing. In general, these organizations don’t ban smelling salts either, with the exception of boxing matches. While most boxing matches do ban ammonia, it doesn’t mean that smelling salts are dangerous.

In the end, I don’t know of a single country that bans smelling salts. Smelling salts are only made of ammonia, which isn’t a controlled substance in any way. Also, no sporting organizations ban the use of ammonia either. So yes, smelling salts are completely legal to use.

SourceOpens in a new tab.

Ammonia Is Legal in Almost Every Country

A capsule of ammonia.

Aside from being legal in almost every sports organization, ammonia is legal in almost every country on the planet. I say almost because although I didn’t find any country that had banned ammonia smelling salts I can’t be sure that every single country allows its use.

Because ammonia and smelling salts aren’t really drugs, aren’t addictive, and have almost no harmful side effects, alongside being used in the medical field, countries have no reason to ban them for recreational use. In my other article, why lifters sniff ammoniaOpens in a new tab., I explained that smelling salts are used to increase adrenaline and allow lifters to lift more weight. There’s nothing wrong with this, so there is no reason for any government ban smelling salts.

As I mentioned, during my research, I couldn’t find any countries that banned the use of ammonia smelling salts. This being said, just because I couldn’t find any, doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Some countries don’t have enough data about their laws available on the internet or just aren’t very public about the laws in their country.

All this being said, if you live in a free, first world country, you can rest assured that smelling salts aren’t illegal to possess or to use however you’d like. Just because ammonia isn’t illegal, doesn’t mean that you should use them, or that they’re allowed in every single sporting organization. Below, I’ll go over whether smelling salts are safe to use, and a few organizations where they are banned from being used.

Ammonia Is Banned in Boxing Competitions

Ammonia smelling salts, while legal, are banned in most boxing competitions and organizations. To understand why you’ll need a little background on smelling salts.

Smelling salts are used in the medical field by doctors and EMTs to revive patients that have passed out or become unconscious. Along time ago, in boxing competitions, ammonia was used to wake up boxers that had been knocked out so that they could keep fighting. This was a very common practice, up until recently when smelling salts were banned from most boxing organizations.

Ammonia was banned because it was used to wake up fighters so they could keep fighting even when they had suffered a head injury. Today, instead of waking up unconscious fighters to keep fighting, when somebody is knocked out they are treated by medical professionals, to ensure that they are safe, and did not suffer a severe head injury.

While this may mean that if you get knocked out, you lose the fight, in the long run, it is much safer for fighters and reduces the risk, of serious injuries.

Are Smelling Salts Safe?

A lifter using smelling salts in the gym.

While you may suffer some irritation in your nose and throat in the short term, there’s no evidence for harmful long-term side effects. Although, just because there hasn’t been any evidence found or proven doesn’t mean that they are 100% safe. Anytime you are putting something foreign into your body, you should exercise caution and not overdo it.

Although ammonia is not addicting, you can become dependent on smelling salts while you’re lifting. Along with this, using them too often in a short period of time can make you feel sick. The good news is, aside from these few things there are no proven harmful side effects of ammonia smelling salts, even in the long term.

How to Use Ammonia Smelling Salts

If you’re wondering how to use smelling salts in the medical field, where they are used to wake up somebody that’s unconscious, you should leave that to the professionals. That being said, I can give you some insight on how to use them when you want to lift more weight in the gym.

Most lifters that you smelling salts sniff the ammonia just before they lift the weight, usually before they hit a PR or a personal record. Along with PR’s, they’re used when lifting a one-rep max (1RM), or the most weight that you can lift, without being able to lift it a second time.

To use smelling salts the right way, here’s what you should do. Get all of your weights ready, and lined up. Step up to the bar with your bottle or capsules of smelling salts and get ready. Next, break your capsules and sniff, or if you’re using powder, just sniff straight from the bottle.

The only thing you have to do next is to lift your weight. The ammonia you just sniffed should give you a boost in strength, and help you lift a little more weight. Just be careful while you’re using ammonia, and make sure you’re in control of your body, and the weights that you’re lifting.

Related Questions

Are Smelling Salts Addictive? Ammonia itself is not an addictive substance. This being said, if you use them too much, you may become dependent on them while you’re lifting, which is something you want to avoid.

Why Was Ammonia Banned in Boxing? Ammonia used to be commonly used in boxing until it was banned to prevent head and brain injuries.

What’s the Point of Smelling Salts? Ammonia is used by lifters, and other athletes to increase adrenaline in the body, to lift more weight or to become stronger for a short period of time.

Pete Schenkel

My name is Pete Schenkel, and I've been into weightlifting since I was a teenager. Now, my main focus is growing Powerful Lifting and putting more information out there. In fact, I'm also currently working on becoming a certified personal trainer.

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