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Inhalants Abuse and Addiction

Inhalants are most commonly abused by “huffing”. This involves soaking a rag with a liquid inhalant, holding the rag up to their mouth and/or nose, and then inhaling the vapors.

Navigation: Inhalant Overview: What are Inhalants?, Inhalant Abuse and Effects, Inhalant Addiction, Rehab is Your Best Chance


Inhalants can produce effects that are comparable to alcohol use. Because they are easy to acquire, they are most commonly abused by teens, particularly younger teens. In fact, over 60 percent of first-time users of inhalants are teenagers.

Although inhalant dependence is rare, abusing inhalants is still very dangerous. In 2011 alone, there were over 10,000 visits to the emergency room because of inhalant abuse. That year, there were 140,000 recorded cases of inhalant dependence. For comparison, there were over 100 times as many alcohol dependencies that same year.


Inhalant Overview: What are Inhalants?

Inhalants are volatile substances that vaporize at room temperature. A lot of them are also flammable. Inhalants produce short-lived, mind-altering effects that can be similar to alcohol’s effects. Inhalants encompass a wide variety of chemicals and anesthetics categorized together based on their method of administration—which is inhalation.

Common street names for inhalants include whippets, laughing gas, huff, and hippie crack. Many inhalants are household solvents, gases, and anesthetics. Household inhalants can be anything from cleaning products to gasoline.

Examples of inhalants include: solvents, paint thinners, gasoline, lighter fluid, correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluid, dry-cleaning fluids, glue, nail polish, electronic contact cleaners, nail polish remover, aerosols, hairspray, spray paint, deodorant spray, vegetable oil sprays, propane tanks, butane lighters, whipped cream dispensers, ether, chloroform, gases, nitrites, video head cleaner, Freon, nitrous oxide, and leather cleaners.


Inhalant Abuse and Effects

Inhalants are most commonly abused by “huffing”. This involves soaking a rag with a liquid inhalant, holding the rag up to their mouth and/or nose, and then inhaling the vapors. Other people inhale the substance directly from its container through their mouth or nose. But inhalants can also be abused using other methods like inhaling the substance out of a plastic or paper bag. Some users inhale them from balloons.

There are some reported cases where users heat the substances before inhaling them to “intensify” the effects. The effects of inhalants only last for a few minutes. It causes euphoria, excitability, hallucinations, limited reflexes, loss of self-control, loss of coordination, slurred speech, blacking out, lightheadedness, and dizziness.

Inhalant intoxication is commonly compared to alcohol intoxication because of their similar effects, such as impaired judgment and motor function. But unlike alcohol, inhalants can cause a fleeting hallucinatory state.

Studies show that between 13.1 percent and 16.1 percent of 8 graders use inhalants. This is approximately the same percentage that uses marijuana. Teens are the largest group of individuals abusing inhalants. This is primarily because inhalants are the only drugs they can readily access. The average age among first-time users in 2012 was about 17 years of age.

Inhalant Addiction

National surveys indicate that 21.7 million Americans have used inhalants at least once in their lives. Despite this, inhalant abuse is actually less common than other drugs. Most cases occur in more isolated regions.

However, inhalants do have addictive properties. It is also worth considering that just because inhalant abuse is less common doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous. Inhalant addiction should not be overlooked just because it is less common than others.

It is possible for people who use inhalants on a regular basis to develop physical and psychological dependence on the substance over time. People who are unable to control their inhalant use despite knowing the consequences and health effects are considered to have an addiction.

Many people who are addicted to inhalants are unable to quit despite their overwhelming desire to do so. The accessibility of these substances makes it much harder for addicted individuals to quit on their own.

Any use of inhalants is considered abuse because of the serious damage these substances can inflict on the body. Inhalants act as a central nervous system depressant. At higher doses, these solvents can easily cause a fatal overdose. Inhalant overdose is usually characterized by nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness. But in some cases, it can result in heart failure, asphyxiation, or breathing difficulties. The user may stop breathing on their own.

Inhalant abuse has long term effects including hearing loss, liver damage, kidney damage, bone marrow damage, nerve damage, and brain damage. Inhalant addiction is a very serious problem that can cause permanent brain damage within a short period of time.

If someone in the family is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against substance abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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