What Are Inhalants?
Inhalants is a term used to describe a variety of substances whose main characteristic is that they are taken through inhalation. Inhalants are invisible, volatile substances that are used for getting high. They are the chemical vapors produced by some common products in the home or workplace like spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids. Their inhalation induces psychoactive or mind-altering effects. These products are not normally considered as drugs. They are not intended for getting high though some people use them for that purpose.
Inhalant addiction is a form of substance use disorder. This happens when there is repeated use of the drugs or inhalants. They cause health problems and issues in other regular functioning like failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home.
Common Street Names
Commonly Abused Inhalants
- Products used in households or industries like gasoline, dry-cleaning fluids, lighter fluid, paint thinners and removers,
- Art or office supplies like correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners glue.
- Household aerosol items like spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, aerosol computer cleaning products, and vegetable oil sprays.
- Household or commercial products gases like butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols or dispensers,
- used as anesthesia during surgery/procedures like ether, chloroform, and nitrous oxide.
Common Patterns Of Abuse
Inhalants that are breathed in through the nose or the mouth can be inhaled in a variety of ways:
- Sniffing or snorting,
- Bagging – inhaling of fumes or sniffing from substances that have been sprayed or deposited inside a paper or plastic bag,
- Huffing – inhaling from a balloon filled with nitrous oxide, or from an inhalant-soaked rag that is stuffed in the mouth.
The Effects Of Inhalants
Inhalants affect the person’s central nervous system. They slow down their brain activity. Within minutes symptoms that can occur include:
- Cognitive abnormalities
- Slurred or distorted speech
- Lack of coordination or lack of control over body movement
- General lack of control
- Loss of consciousness
Additional symptoms that may be exhibited due to long-term use of inhalants include:
- Weight loss
- Muscle weakness
- Lack of coordination
- Damage to the nervous system and many other organs
- Hearing loss
- Bone marrow damage
- Delayed behavioral development
- Brain damage from a decrease in the oxygen supply to the brain
Nitrates are often misused for sexual pleasure and performance, thus leading to the users indulging in unsafe sexual practices and other risky behavior. Hence the chances of getting or spreading infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis increases.
For persons misusing or abusing inhalants, the withdrawal symptoms can occur within just a few hours after the last use. Individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Disturbed sleep
One of the main characteristics of inhalant intoxication is that it lasts only for a few minutes. Due to this, users tend to continue inhaling for several hours trying to prolong the high. This is a very dangerous and sometimes fatal practice. With repeated inhalations, the person may lose consciousness and it can even lead to death.
If a young and otherwise healthy person indulges in a single session of use and abuse of inhalants like butane, propane, and chemicals in aerosols, it can result in ‘sudden sniffing death’.
Repeated inhalations and abuse can also cause death by asphyxiation – high concentrations of inhaled fumes displace the oxygen available in the lungs. If the user inhales fumes from a plastic bag placed over the head, they may get suffocated when air is blocked from entering the lungs. They may also get choked from swallowing vomit after inhalation abuse.