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Inhalants

What are Inhalants?

The inhalants definition, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, states that inhalants are “the various substances that people typically take only by inhaling.” Inhalants contain psychoactive chemicals that produce mind-altering effects when inhaled.

These substances are easily accessible and are typically common household items, such as:

Solvents — these liquids transform into gases at room temperature.

Some examples of solvents are:

  • Marker fluid
  • Glue
  • Paint thinners
  • Paint removers
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Fluids used for dry cleaning

Aerosol Sprays — these substances spray out into the air as a mist.

Some examples of aerosol sprays are:

  • Hair spray
  • Spray deodorant
  • Spray paint
  • Spray vegetable oil
  • Spray computer cleaning products

Gases — gases can be used for common household purposes as well as for anesthesia.

Some examples of these gases are:

  • Propane
  • Gas from whipped cream bottles
  • Butane lighters
  • Chloroform
  • Nitrous oxide

Nitrates — these substances are usually prescribed for chest pain.

Some examples of nitrates are:

  • Room odorizer
  • Cleaner for leather
  • Liquid aromas

Even though the purpose of these products is not to get a person high, many people (especially kids and teens) use them for that reason. Inhalants can be dangerous for a person’s mental and physical health over time.

How are Inhalants Used?

Inhalants can be consumed by mouth or by nose in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Huffing,” or breathing in the chemicals from a chemical-soaked rag
  • Sniffing or snorting the fumes from an inhalant substance
  • Spraying aerosol substances into the nose or mouth
  • Bagging,” or inhaling chemicals that were put in a plastic or paper bag
  • Inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons called laughing gas

The effects that inhalants produce on an individual only last for a short period of time, so most people continue inhaling these substances for hours at a time to achieve this effect for longer.

What are the Short-term Effects of Inhalants?

Like all forms of drugs, inhalants have short and long-term effects on the brain. Inhalants affect the brain by interrupting the central nervous system (CNS). As a result, the brain’s activity is slowed down and symptoms similar to alcohol consumption arise.

Some of these short-term symptoms may include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Less control over body movements
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Hallucinations/delusions
  • Lack of self-control
  • Boosted confidence
  • Drowsiness/fatigue
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Headaches

What are the Long-term Effects of Inhalants?

When used for lengthy periods of time, many long-term effects can emerge. Some of these long-term symptoms may include:

  • Nerve damage
  • Damage to the major organs such as liver and kidneys
  • Loss of hearing
  • Damage to bone marrow
  • Muscle spasms
  • Lack of coordination
  • Brain functioning problems
  • Brain damage

What is Inhalant Abuse?

When a person begins to rely on inhalants to function properly and experience withdrawal symptoms in absence of the drug, inhalant abuse may be prevalent.

Inhalant abuse can range from experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms to having an addiction that requires treatment. Constant use of inhalants can cause people to develop severe health problems as well as cause their lives to take a turn for the worst. Withdrawal, dependence, and addiction are all possibilities of long-term inhalant abuse.

  • Withdrawal symptoms of inhalants may include nausea, changes in eating patterns, sleeping problems, mood swings, and more. These symptoms may occur when an individual suddenly stops their inhalant usage but their body still needs it to function properly.
  • Dependence of a drug occurs when the body relies on it to function. When the body is used to a drug for a long period of time, it may not be able to function properly without it. Inhalant abuse can lead to drug dependence.
  • Addiction can occur when an individual’s body and mind are dependent on the drug. A person suffering from inhalant addiction will crave the substance physically and mentally.

Can People Overdose on Inhalants?

When an individual has consumed too much of an inhalant, there is a possibility for them to overdose because of it. Seizures, coma, and even death are all potential results of overdosing from inhalants.

Some inhalants such as aerosol sprays and solvents contain such a high concentration of chemicals that when sniffed, the heart can instantly stop. Bagging can lead to death caused by suffocation. Each inhalant may cause a different way of overdosing.

An individual could even experience sudden sniffing death, meaning they could die the first time they use an inhalant.

Types of Treatment for Inhalant Abuse?

As with all forms of drug abuse, there are many treatment options available for individuals who are suffering from addiction. To achieve long-term recovery, a person must transform their physical health and mental health for a totally holistic approach to healing.

  • Detoxing
  • Support groups
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Individual and family counseling

Inhalants can lead to many short-term and long-term health problems. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be experiencing inhalant addiction or dependence.

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