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Inhalants are very volatile organic compounds, which are sniffed, causing the rapid absorption of certain chemicals into the bloodstream and to the brain. Sniffing will result in a high within minutes.

Commonly abused inhalants include:

  • Gasoline
  • Glue
  • Solvents
  • Paint thinner
  • Paint
  • Cleaning products
  • Certain aerosols

Users may pour the chemical on a rag and sniff it, they may spray the inside of a bag and "huff" the fumes in, or simply inhale out of the container.

Who Uses Inhalants?

The most common users of inhalants are young teens, attracted to the easily accessible, and often found in the home, drugs. Older users may continue to use inhalants, but often in combination with other drugs, and rarely as a first choice. Older inhalant abusers tend to be poor and unable to afford alternate drugs.

The Inhalant High

Sniffing inhalants creates a short lived high within minutes, which will last for less than an hour. Due to the short duration of the high, most inhalant abusers will sniff or huff repeatedly over a course of hours.

The effects include:

  • Excitement
  • Euphoria
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Inhibition
  • Hallucination
  • Delusion

Negative immediate effects can include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Terrible chemical breath
  • Nosebleeds
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Glazed eyes

Inhalant Overdose

Because users tend sniff inhalants repeatedly in a session, they risk a serious and possibly fatal overdose. Overdose can result in extreme confusion, blackout, coma and convulsions.

An overdose can also cause an erratic and accelerated heart beat, which can lead to heart failure and death. Some people seem susceptible to these cardiac effects after low doses of inhalants, and there have been a number of tragic first time user deaths.

Chronic Use Health Effects

The health effects of chronic use can be permanent.

The heavy metals in certain inhaled products can cause irreversible damage to the brain, kidneys, liver and central nervous system. Heavy users will experience breathing problems, memory loss, cognitive declines and confusion.

Additional health risks include seizures and convulsions, blindness, gastro intestinal problems and heart damage.

These chemicals are toxic, and will build up in the body over time.

Inhalant Addiction

Inhalants are psychologically addictive, and in some cases seem to induce a physical dependency. Most people will get addicted to the inhalant intoxication, and will feel cravings to use the drug with increasing frequency.

Withdrawal symptoms are usually mild, and can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Tremors
  • Dizziness

Inhalant Addiction Treatment

Anyone experiencing an inhalant dependency needs immediate addiction treatment. The irreversible physical damage of chronic abuse demands a strong response, and most inhalant abusers will require addiction treatments to learn how to live drug free.

Although the withdrawal symptoms are not severe, addicts will feel strong cravings to use the drugs, and these cravings can manifest over a lengthy period, making relapse a real possibility.

Inhalant addicts need to learn why they choose to get high, need to learn how to manage cravings to use, and need to learn that life is better free from abuse and addiction.

Addiction treatment options include residential care, such as therapeutic wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools or residential rehabs, or outpatient options such as 12 steps meetings or individual and group outpatient counseling.

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Page last updated Jun 15, 2011

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