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Inhalants are a variety of rugs of products easily purchased and found in the workplace or in the home. Drugs fall under this category includes spray paints, glues, markers and cleaning fluids. These products contain dangerous substances that have psychoactive or mind-altering properties when inhaled. Most people do not consider these types of products as drugs. However, some individuals intend to use these products to get ‘high’. When users used these products or substances for getting high, they are called inhalants. Mostly young kids and teenagers use inhalants and the only type of substance popular among younger teens. Street names of inhalants include Huff, Gluey, Rush, Moon Gas, and Spray.

Quick Facts about Inhalants

  • At least 22.9 million Americans admitted having experimented with inhalants during their lifetime.
  • In 2007, as young as 12 to 13 years old abuse inhalants. One in every five eight graders has used inhalants at some point in their lives.
  • According to statistics conducted in 2008, inhalants are the primary reason for about 3,800 emergency room visits and 450 hospitalization admissions.
  • 22% of inhalant abusers who died because of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome were first timers, with no known history of inhalant abuse in their lives.
  • An estimated 60,000 children who dwell on the streets in Nairobi, Kenya are hooked on some type of inhalants.
  • In Karachi City, Pakistani about 80% to 90% of the 14,000 street kids sniff solvents or some king of glue.

Signs and symptoms

Users who fall prey in using inhalants use various ways such as:

  • Snorting or sniffing vapors from a container or dispenser. Users inhale substance of a marking pen or glue bottle.
  • Spraying aerosols like cleaning dusters directly into the mouth or nose
  • “huffing” from a wet rag soaked in chemical in the mouth
  •    Inhaling or sniffing fumes from spray chemical containers
  •    Inhaling chemicals from a plastic or paper bag (bagging)
  •    Inhaling directly from balloons filled with nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas

The high that users get from these actions typically last a few minutes. However, they try to make it linger longer. Users will inhale the substance repeatedly over several hours.

Like other drugs, users who abuse inhalants show apparent signs. Other symptoms of inhalants abuse include:

  •    loss of appetite
  •    mood swings
  •    extreme anger, agitation, and irritability
  •    exhaustion
  •    facial rashes and blisters
  •    dilated pupils
  •    glazed or watery eyes
  •    extremely bad breath

Most common inhalants used in ‘huffing’ include:

  • Adhesives like household flue and rubber cement
  • Anesthetics like chloroform, nitrous oxide, ether
  • Aerosols such as butane, hair spray, air freshener, deodorant and spray paint
  • Cleaning products like degreaser, spot remover, and dry cleaning fluid
  • Gases like butane, propane, helium and nitrous oxide
  • Solvents like paint thinner, correction fluid, toxic markers, gasoline, and nail polish remover
  • Food products like cooking spray and whippets, a form of nitrous oxide


The history of inhalants goes back from ancient times as part of religious ceremonies in Egypt, India, Iraq and China. ‘Priests’ use fumes from chemicals like oils, resins, spices, and incense to alter consciousness. In ancient Greece priestesses at the Oracle of Delphi use gas vapors to alter a person’s state of mind. During the 1800’s nitrous oxide, chloroform and ether were typically used as intoxicants.

A British scientist named Sir Humphry Davy popularized the use of inhalants in 1799. He held events particularly for nitrous oxide use and coined the term ‘laughing gas.’ The recreational use of solvents and gasoline became popular in the 1940s. After a decade, the misuse of inhalants spreads across the United States and become widespread substance abuse among adolescents.

In 1960, the practices of inhaling solvent become widespread in varieties of commercial products. These include paint and lacquer thinner, shoe polish, lighter fluid, spray paint even nail polish remover.

What makes it addictive?

Although it uncommon to get addictive in inhalants, repeated use can lead to addiction. The condition referred to as Substance Use Disorder or SUD. SUD develops when users constantly use inhalants that can cause health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work or school. Experts categorized the addiction which ranges from mild to severe.

 Side Effects

Generally, inhalants slow down brain activity and affect the central nervous system.

Short-term effects of the drugs are similar to alcohol, these may include but not limited to:

  • Feeling euphoria or the ‘high’ effect
  • slurred or distorted speech
  • lack of coordination or control of body movement
  • dizziness
  • light-headed
  • hallucinations (seeing images or feeling sensation that seems real)
  • delusions (false beliefs)
  • reduced inhibition (decreased self-control or self-conscious)
  • vomiting
  • a headache that may linger for some time

Unlike other kinds of inhalants, nitrites are drugs used to treat chest pain. However, it has a potential for abuse. Users inhale nitrites to improve sexual pleasure because it can relax and expand blood vessels.

Long-term effects of inhalant use may include but may not be limited to the following:

  • hearing loss
  • kidney damage
  • liver diseases
  • bone marrow illnesses
  • loss of coordination
  • lime spasms due to nerve damage
  • deferred behavioral development because brain problems
  • brain damage mainly from decreased oxygen flow in the brain
  • Users abuse nitrites because they believed it can enhance sexual performance and pleasure. This behavior can often lead to unsafe sexual practices and other dangerous decisions.
  • This increases the chance of getting or spreading blood-borne diseases like as HIV or hepatitis diseases.

Recovering from addiction

Getting help for inhalants addiction is important to give users their lives back. Treatment for this kind of addiction is mostly behavioral. A number of health care facilities help people to change their unhealthy behaviors. Experts guide users to function normally without drugs and deal with cravings. They also help users manage situations that can lead them to use inhalants.

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