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Inhalant Addiction, Abuse, and Treatment - Carolina Center for Recovery

While there are various substances that may be inhaled, the term “inhalants” refers to various substances that individuals take only by inhaling. For example, some of these substances include solvents, aerosol sprays, gases, and nitrites. Inhalants are products easily bought and found in the home, like spray paints, cleaning fluids, glues, and markers. Unfortunately, they contain dangerous chemicals that produce psychoactive properties when inhaled and abused.

When these substances are used to get high, they are called inhalants. While inhalant abuse is less popular than abuse of other substances like opioids, the dangers of inhalant abuse should not be overlooked. Especially considering that inhalant abuse is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. When an individual is unable to control their abuse of inhalants despite knowing the negative consequences and health effects, they are suffering from an inhalant addiction.

What are Inhalants?

Inhalants are substances with volatile properties and are typically flammable, vaporizing at room temperature. Similar to the effects of alcohol, inhalants produce short-lived mind-altering effects. The term inhalants encompass a large number of chemicals and anesthetics. Inhalants are solely characterized by their method of abuse- inhalation. These substances are known by their street names, whippets, laughing gas, huff, or hippie crack.

Inhalant abuse includes the abuse of household solvents, gases, and anesthetics.

Household inhalants may be anything from cleaning supplies to gasoline.

In reference to anesthetic inhalants, nitrous oxide and chloroform are popularly abused. Nitrous oxide, often referred to as whippets, is best known as “laughing gas” and is commonly used by dentists during oral procedures. Additionally, nitrous oxide is found in cans of whipped cream, which is where most individuals obtain this substance of abuse.

To continue, amyl nitrite is a popular inhalant that is medicinally used to increase blood flow for patients with heart disease. Nitrites are typically subjugated to their own class of inhalants, as they act primarily as a muscle relaxant, which is different from the effects of typical inhalants.

Let’s take a look at each class of inhalant and their most popular substances of abuse.

Solvents

  • Paint thinners
  • Dry-cleaning fluids
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Correction fluids
  • Felt-tip marker fluid
  • Electronic contact cleaners
  • Glue
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover

Aerosols

  • Spray paint
  • Hair spray
  • Deodorant spray
  • Aerosol computer cleaning products
  • Vegetable oil sprays

Nitrites

  • Video head cleaner
  • Room odorizer
  • Leather cleaner
  • Liquid aroma

Gases

  • Butane lighters
  • Propane tanks
  • Whipped cream dispensers
  • Ether
  • Chloroform
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Freon

The Effects of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalants are abused in many different methods, with the most common method being huffing. To explain, huffing is completed by soaking a rag with an inhalant substance, holding the rag up to one’s mouth or nose, and breathing in the vapors. However, some individuals huff the vapors straight from the container. On the other hand, some people may inhale the substance out of a plastic or paper bag, as well as out of balloons filled with inhalant vapors.

Inhalant intoxication is comparable to alcohol intoxication due to their similar effects, like impaired judgment or poor motor function. However, unlike alcohol, inhalants can cause a temporary hallucinatory state. Additionally, the effects of inhalants may only last a few minutes.

The effects of inhalants include:

  • Excitability
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Poor self-control
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Limited reflexes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blacking out
  • Slurred and distorted speech

Any use of inhalants is considered abuse, as these substances are not meant for recreational use. Additionally, inhalants cause a myriad of undesirable mental and physical health effects. Inhalants are central nervous system depressants, meaning high doses of these substances may result in a fatal overdose. Before an overdose occurs, the individual will typically experience a loss of touch with reality, nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness. Fatal inhalant overdoses are usually a result of heart failure or asphyxiation.

Long term effects of inhalant abuse may result in:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle and limb spasms
  • Nerve damage
  • Delayed behavioral development
  • Brain damage

If you or a loved one frequently abuse inhalants, you may be at risk for serious health complications. Inhalant abuse leads to addiction just like any other substance. With that being said, contact a medical professional or addiction treatment specialist as soon as possible to begin inhalant addiction treatment.

Inhalant Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms

While it is uncommon, repeated abuse of inhalants will lead to addiction. Inhalant addiction is classified by continued abuse of the substance causing issues, such as health problems, as well as failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. Inhalant addiction is a form of substance use disorder and may range from mild, moderate, to severe.

Individuals who are addicted to inhalants and try to suddenly cease their use will experience withdrawal symptoms. Inhalant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • loss of appetite
  • sweating
  • problems sleeping
  • mood changes

If you or a loved one have experienced the withdrawal symptoms of inhalants, you are most likely suffering from an addiction to inhalants. Consider attending a medically-assisted detox as well as professional addiction rehab.

Treatment for Inhalant Addiction and Abuse

Inhalant addiction is a very serious issue, often causing permanent brain damage in a short period of time. Most individuals who suffer from inhalant addiction require professional treatment to recover. If you are suffering from the effects of inhalant addiction, contact Carolina Recovery Center today. We can help you or your loved one to create a strong foundation of recovery, allowing for a lifetime of sobriety and happiness.

Inhalants are one of the most detrimental substances of abuse to an individual’s health. If you or a loved one has an inhalant addiction, contact us today.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

About

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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