In 2015, over 1.8 million people aged 12 and older had used some type of inhalant that year to get high. Inhalant addiction is an urgent and critical issue that must be addressed not only because of its potential to be lethal but because of how accessible many different types of inhalants are to kids and adolescents.
What are inhalants?
There is not an exact inhalants definition in the substance abuse context because there are over 1,000 substances the term can apply to. In general, inhalants are volatile substances; that is, chemicals or gases that vaporize at room temperature, in which their vapors can be inhaled and produce intoxicating psychoactive effects. Inhalants are harmless when they are used as intended, however, their vapors can quickly become harmful and potentially fatal when they are intentionally inhaled for the purpose of getting high.
The psychoactive effects of inhalants are usually immediate, but short-lived. The user will likely only feel intoxicated for a few minutes.
There are four main types of inhalants, each of which can come in the form of common household products:
Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. Common household and industrial volatile solvent inhalants can include:
Felt tip pens and markers
Dry cleaning fluids
Nail polish remover (acetone)
Electronic contact cleaners
Aerosoles are spray canisters that contain propellants and solvents. Common household and classroom aerosol inhalants can include:
Cooking oil sprays
Fabric protector sprays
Analgesic, or pain relief, spray
Gases can be used in medical, industrial and household settings. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a medical anesthetic that can also be found in household and commercial products. Common household gas-based inhalants can include:
Air conditioning refrigerants
Whipped cream dispensers
Nitrites, distinct from other types of inhalants that affect the central nervous system. They work by dilating blood vessels and relaxing the muscles. Nitrite inhalants are most often used to enhance sexual encounters:
Poppers (amyl nitrite), often sold as room deodorizers, leather cleaners, video head cleaners or liquid aroma
Certain prescription medications for chest pain
Know the common street names of inhalants and the act of inhaling, including:
Glue or gluey
Are inhalants addictive?
Individuals who abuse inhalants do not always necessarily develop a physical and psychological addiction in the traditional clinical sense as with other substances. Because of their accessibility, however, inhalants can be easily and frequently abused.
Even if an individual is not addicted to inhalants, busing inhalants can have dangerous and potentially fatal short-term and long-term side effects. While the brief high from inhalants can produce feelings of euphoria, it can also cause the following effects:
Increased heart rate
Loss of inhibitions
Tremors and shaking
Dizziness and vertigo
Loss of balance and coordination
Dry mouth and loss of thirst
Burning or irritation, particularly in the eyes, nose and throat
Visual and/or auditory hallucinations
Nose bleeds and sores around the mouth
Increased risk of burn injuries from inhalants like butane and propane
Liver and kidney damage
Circulation and blood production issues
Inhalants can also cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea, irritability, cravings and muscle aches when frequent users of inhalants suddenly stop or reduce their use.
The following signs may suggest inhalants are being abused:
Paint stains on skin or clothing, from spray paint
Chemical odors on breath and clothing
Red and/or runny eyes and nose
Sores around the mouth
Possession of or hiding empty aerosol cans, solvent containers or chemical-soaked fabric
Obsession over obtaining inhalants
Missing school, work or other responsibilities
Is inhalant recovery possible?
Freedom Detox approaches addiction recovery and detox with respect, trust and compassion. Inhalant addiction can be treated through detox and therapy, and we will set you up for success by providing coping tools to carry with you once treatment is completed. Reach out today at 800-475-2312 if you or someone you love is struggling with inhalants addiction.
The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as medical advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, a doctor-patient relationship.