Inhalants are invisible, volatile substances found in common household products that produce chemical vapors that are inhaled to induce psychoactive or mind altering effects. For example, a few of the more popular common household products used are glue, lighter fluid, cleaning fluids and paint. All of these products produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled. Although other drugs can be inhaled, the term “inhalants” encompasses a variety of substances whose only method of use is through inhalation.

Inhalants are often among the first drugs that young children use. About 1 in 5 kids report having used inhalants by the eighth grade. Inhalants are also one of the few substances abused by more of the younger adolescent population. There is a common link between inhalant use and problems in school, failing grades, chronic absences and general apathy. Other signs include paint or stains on body or clothing; spots or sores around the mouth; red or runny eyes or nose, chemical breath odor, drunk, dazed, dizzy appearance, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, excitability and irritability.

The common household products that are misused as inhalants are legally available for their intended and legitimate uses. Many state legislatures have attempted to deter youth who buy legal products to get high by placing a restriction on the sale of these products to minors. There are more than 1,000 products that are very dangerous when inhaled; things like typewriter correction fluid, air conditioning refrigerant, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane and cooking spray. Inhalants are breathed in through the nose or the mouth in a variety of ways. “Sniffing” or “bagging”, which is sniffing or inhaling fumes from substances sprayed or deposited inside a plastic or paper bag. “Huffing” is another method which is when an inhalant-soaked rag is stuffed in the mouth. People can also inhale balloons filled with nitrous oxide. Most inhalants produce a rapid high that is similar to the effects of alcohol intoxication.

Inhalant abuse can cause damage to the parts of the brain that control thinking, moving, seeing and hearing. Cognitive abnormalities can range from mild impairment to severe dementia. Inhaled chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream and then are quickly distributed to the brain and other organs. Nearly all inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics which slow down the body’s function. These effects may include slurred speech, an inability to coordinate movements, euphoria and dizziness. Within minutes of inhalation, the user experiences intoxication along with other effects similar to those produced by alcohol. Depending on the amount inhaled, the user can experience anything from slight stimulation and feeling of less inhibited to loss of consciousness.

Because the high from inhalants lasts only a few minutes, abusers try to prolong it by continuing to inhale repeatedly over the course of several hours. Prolonged sniffing of the highly concentrated chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms and lead to heart failure and death within minutes. “Sudden sniffing death” can result from a single session of inhalant use by an otherwise healthy young person. Sudden sniffing death is particularly associated with the abuse of butane, propane and chemicals in aerosols. Inhalant abuse can also cause death by asphyxiation from repeated inhalations, which lead to high concentrations of inhaled fumes displacing the available oxygen in the lungs. Suffocation is also a risk because the inhaled chemical blocks air from entering the lungs or when inhaling fumes from a plastic bag placed over the head. Death can also be caused by choking from swallowing vomit after inhaling substances.

After heavy abuse of inhalants, abusers may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache. Additional symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant abusers include: weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentive-ness, lack of coordination, irritability, depression and damage to the nervous system and other organs. Some of the damaging effects to the body may be at least partially reversible when inhalant abuse is stopped. Unfortunately, many of the effects from prolonged abuse are irreversible.

Street names of Inhalants include: Gluey, Huff, Rush and Whippets.

If you or someone you love has a problem with Inhalants, call our professionals at Sobriety Resources (855)289-2640 today to experience the freedom of sobriety.

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