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Inhalants are a wide variety of substances that can be inhaled in order to produce mind altering effects. Household cleaning products and other household items that give off a chemical vapor, gasoline, various spray chemicals, etc. can be abused and used to get high.

InhalantsThe origin of inhaling fumes from chemicals such as perfumes, spices, resins, oils and incense as a part of religious ceremonies or to alter one’s consciousness dates back to ancient times in China, India, Egypt and what was Babylonia and is now Iraq. In fact, the Greeks believed that Apollo communicated with priestesses who had inhaled gas vapors to change their consciousness at the Oracle of Delphi, a shrine in ancient Greece.

There Are Four Types of Inhalants

1. Volatile Solvents

Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. These solvents include normal household items such as gasoline, paint thinners, glue, correction fluid, marker fluid and lighter fluid.

2. Gases

Gases are commercial products found in the household such as refrigerator gases, whipped cream topping aerosols and medical anesthetics.

3. Aerosols

Aerosols are sprays such as bug repellent, hair spray, and air freshener which can be inhaled in order to experience a high.

4.  Nitrites
Nitrites are special types of inhalants. These chemicals include cyclohexyl and butyl.

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants are ordinary household products that individuals sniff or inhale to get high. There are currently hundreds of thousands of products on the market that can be misused as inhalants including:

  • Correction fluid
  • Cooking spray
  • Air conditioner fluid (Freon)
  • Fabric protector
  • Spray paint
  • Propellant in aerosol whipped cream
  • Gasoline
  • Hair spray
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Nail polish remover
  • Model airplane glue
  • Felt tip markers
  • Air freshener

Users can snort or sniff these fumes directly from the container to achieve a high. Some people find that inhaling the fumes from a plastic bag or “huffing” them by placing an inhalant-soaked roll of toilet paper, sock or rag in their mouth often achieves the same effect. Abusers may spray aerosols directly into their mouth or nose or inhale fumes from a balloon. Although the high only lasts a few minutes, those who abuse inhalants often try to prolong the effect by continuing to inhale the product numerous times over the course of several hours.

People do not normally think of household products as drugs because these items were never originally intended to be used for that purpose. However, inhalant abuse is most common among adolescents and young children; according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), they are the only substance abused more by younger children than older teens.

New users between the ages of 12 and 15 often abuse lighter fluid, gasoline, spray paints, shoe polish and glue, yet new users between the ages of 16 and 17 often begin by abusing nitrous oxide, also known as a “whippet.” According to a study released by the NIDA, of the 8th-, 10th- and 12th-graders surveyed in 2012, 11.8%, 9.9% and 7.9% admitted to using inhalants at least once in their lifetime, respectively.

Street Names of Inhalants

Inhalants are also known by other names among users, including whippets, moon gas, huff, laughing gas, buzz bomb, poor man’s pot and spray. However, there are over 35 names that people use when referring to inhalants; some are more blatantly obvious than others.

Effect of Inhalants

Most inhalants other than nitrites depress the body’s central nervous system similar to the manner in which alcohol effects the body. Lack of coordination, slurred speech, dizziness and euphoria are common effects of both alcohol and abused inhalants. Additionally, as a user repeatedly inhales the product, he or she may feel less in control and less inhibited; some may experience a lingering headache or may feel drowsy for several hours.

Some users report that nitrites, unlike other inhalants, enhance sexual pleasure because they relax and dilate the blood vessels; although rare, addiction to inhalants is possible with repeated abuse. Inhalants can damage the parts of the brain that control hearing, seeing, moving and thinking; cognitive abnormalities may range from mild, temporary impairment to severe dementia.

Inhalants can be lethal and, with repeated use, can directly cause heart failure known as “sudden sniffing death.” High concentrations may also cause suffocation.

Overdose Effects of Inhalants

Since intoxication of inhalants only lasts a few minutes, users attempt to prolong the effects by continuing to inhale the product over several hours. With just a few successful inhalations, abusers may lose consciousness and die. This consequence is typically associated with the abuse of the chemicals in aerosols, propane and butane.

Short-term Effects of Inhalants

According to Drug-Free World, most of these chemicals directly affect the nervous system to product mind-altering effects. Within just seconds, the user may experience intoxication or other similar effects to those of alcohol. There are many effects that can be experienced either during or shortly after use such as:

  • Severe headaches
  • Unconsciousness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Apathy
  • Hostility
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Inability to coordinate movement
  • Dazed, dizzy or drunk appearance
  • Slurred speech

Additionally, the user may develop rashes around the mouth or nose and prolonged sniffing can lead to rapid and irregular heartbeats, causing heart failure and death within a matter of minutes. Some users have suffocated to death because the sniffing replaces the oxygen in the lungs and then the central nervous system with the chemical to stop breathing altogether.

Long-term Effects of Inhalants

Unfortunately, the use of inhalants may be directly linked to serious health conditions. Users who sniff paint thinner and glue may suffer from kidney problems while those who sniff other solvents such as toluene may cause direct damage to the liver. Other long-term side effects include:

  • Bone marrow damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Diminished intelligence, memory impairment
  • Serious, irreversible damage to lungs, heart and brain
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Lack of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle weakness

Legal Status of Inhalants

Since inhalants are common household products, they are legal for sale so long as they are used as intended. However, some states have legislature in place to deter children from purchasing these products in an attempt to get high by enforcing an age restriction on the sales of the products to minors. However, while the individual may not be able to purchase these products directly, nearly every household in the country has some type or form of inhalant available for cleaning, and many abusers are satisfied by using these products at home without purchasing them themselves.

Since these products may be purchased by adults for their legitimate, intended uses, it is extremely hard to monitor adolescents when left alone with these items. While many parents and adults may be aware of the potential dangers of inhaling these products, unless they are locked away in a medicine cabinet, many abusers will find an opportunity to inhale or ingest these fumes whenever they can. Since inhalants come in thousands of different forms and can be found nearly anywhere, it is vital to educate adolescents on the dangers of breathing in these fumes and chemicals.

Problems With Inhalants

When these substances are inhaled through huffing, snorting or sniffing the chemicals are released into the brain and cause a high. Those who abuse these substances risk brain damage, brain hypoxia, nerve damage and tremors. If the abuse of these substances is continued it can cause permanent damage such as liver damage and kidney damage along with many other problems.

For those who abuse inhalants, help is available at our inpatient rehab facilities.  At our facility we go through all the steps with our clients to help them reach sobriety and save their lives. Inhalant abuse is a widespread issue that is becoming more and more common among younger individuals. Fortunately, we are here to help anyone addicted to inhalants.

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