Table of Contents
- How Are Inhalant Drugs Used?
- Effects of Inhalant Drugs
- Facts About Inhalants
- Inhalant Intoxication
- Can You Overdose From Using Inhalant Drugs?
- Signs of Inhalant Abuse
- Inhalant Withdrawal
- Inhalant Addiction Treatment
Inhalants are a class of drugs that are specifically inhaled – rather than injected, smoked, or taken orally. Although many drugs can be inhaled, inhalants can only be inhaled through sniffing and similar methods. These drugs are typically household items, like medical or industrial products with psychoactive substances, which, when inhaled, can alter the brain.
Examples of inhalants subtypes include:
● Solvents (liquids that change to gas at room temperature)
● Aerosol sprays
● Nitrates (medicine prescribed for chest pain)
These inhalants are easily available for purchase and are seemingly innocent. They are needed for everyday uses at home, in stores, offices, schools, and the like. They include glue, cleaning products, paint, air conditioning refrigerant, butane gas (cigarette lighter refills), air freshener, hair spray, gasoline, lighter fluid, felt-tip marker fluid, correction fluid, propane tanks, and nitrous oxide or chloroform (anesthesia).
Some slang names for inhalants are Huff, Rush, Gas, Gasoline, Bang, Kick, Glue, and Poppers.
How Are Inhalant Drugs Used?
As mentioned, inhalants are inhaled, most commonly through the following methods:
● Sniffing or snorting- Spraying the substance into the air or inhaling straight from the can
● Bagging- Spraying the substance into in a plastic or paper bag, and inhaling from the bag
● Huffing- Using a rag to absorb the substance, putting it over the mouth and nose, and inhaling.
Inhaling the substance  straight from the can, tub, or container is the most dangerous form of using inhalants, as it can cause suffocation, which leads to death.
Effects of Inhalant Drugs
Inhalants trigger the central nervous system and release ‘feel-good’ pleasure hormones. This means that the user will instantly feel euphoric or ‘high,’ similar to the effects of alcohol and other recreational drugs. However, like alcohol and drugs, there are adverse short and long-term effects that manifest over time on the user. Below are some symptoms of inhalant abuse.
The short-term effects of inhalants include:
● Slurred speech
● Increased heart rate
● Loss of balance
● Prolonged headaches
The long-term effects of inhalants include:
● Heart failure
● Permanent damage to internal organs
● Hearing loss
● Limb spasms from nerve damage
● Brain damage
● Increased risk of HIV and AIDS
Facts About Inhalants
Are inhalants addictive? Although it may be hard to believe that seemingly innocent household items may be addictive and dangerous, they definitely are. Inhalant addiction is rampant, and research has shown that because inhalants are widely accessible, young kids and teens are more likely to misuse them than older teenagers and adults. In fact, around 1 in 5 children have used inhalants by eighth grade. There are over 1,000 inhalant products that can be misused, and the immediate pleasurable after-effect of using inhalants is similar to that of alcohol.
There are several long-term and short-term effects that occur when inhalants are repeatedly misused. As always, the effects vary for every person and depend on factors such as:
● The type and amount of inhalants used
● Duration and method of misuse
● Overall health of the user
● Whether or not other substances are being used at the same time
● How much physical activity took place after using the inhalants
Specifically, the following factors cause greater damage to the body:
● Using the inhalants in a poorly ventilated space
● Using inhalants when in poor health
● Using inhalants alongside other dangerous drugs
● Engaging in physical activity after using inhalants (could cause cardiac sensitization).
Can You Overdose From Using Inhalant Drugs?
Yes, it is possible to overdose from inhalants. Overdose usually happens because many sniffs are needed in quick succession in order to prolong the ‘high’ feeling, as it commonly lasts for a short window of time. Over the course of several hours of sniffing, one can lose consciousness and die. There is also another unfortunate phenomenon that can occur when a person sniffs butane, propane, and chemicals in aerosols, where after just one sniffing session, the person can die- even if otherwise healthy. This is known as ‘sudden sniffing death.’
Additionally, asphyxiation is where too much fumes enter the body and replace the oxygen until there is not enough oxygen in the lungs to breathe. People also sometimes choke on plastic bags that are used to sniff the inhalants, or they can suffer from suffocation. Lastly, people sometimes choke when they swallow their own vomit after using inhalants.
Some of the signs of inhalant overdose include chest pains, irregular heartbeat, seizures, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and coma. If you or your loved one is starting to show signs of overdose, call the emergency services immediately. Stay with someone who may have overdosed until a medical professional arrives to take over the care.
Signs of Inhalant Abuse
If you’re worried about a loved one who may be addicted to inhalants, here are some signs to look out for. These inhalants symptoms are commonly found in people who have repeatedly misused inhalants for an extended period of time:
● Significant weight loss or appetite loss
● Chemical odors on breath or clothing
● Depression or anxiety
● Paint or other stains on clothing or fingers
● Lack of coordination
● Runny nose or nosebleeds
● Red eyes
● Dizzy or drunk appearance
● Ulcers or sores around her mouth
The withdrawal symptoms of inhalants vary for every person. Like all drugs, they occur because the body has learned to depend on the inhalants, so it cannot function without them, causing the user to crave the inhalant again. Withdrawal symptoms start from 24-48 hours after inhalants are last used and can last for around 2-5 days. During that time, it is extremely difficult- almost impossible- for the user to abstain from drugs completely without professional medical intervention. Some possible withdrawal symptoms are nausea, tiredness, shakiness, cramps, sweating, mood changes, and tremors.
Inhalant Addiction Treatment
There are many therapies and treatment plans available for people who are struggling with inhalant addiction, starting with a medical detox at a reputable drug rehab center. Medical detox is utilized to wean people off inhalants safely and effectively, with the least possible negative side effects. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very useful coping strategy discussed in group and one-on-one therapies. Support groups are also part of the supportive healing environment.
If you or someone you love is dealing with inhalant addiction, know that recovery is possible. At Avenues Recovery, we offer a comprehensive array of different therapies and personalized treatment plans, in order to help you beat your addiction. Our professional and dedicated addiction counselors will guide and support you throughout your complete journey to sobriety. We have helped thousands of people with their addictions, and we can help you too! Reach out to Avenues Recovery Center today, to take your first steps towards recovery.