Inhalant Abuse

What are inhalants?

This category includes a wide variety of toxic chemicals that can often be found around the house: aerosol sprays, cleaning fluids, pain, paint thinner, glue, nail polish remover, typewriter correction fluid, felt tip marking pens, propane and gasoline. Inhaling the substance itself or the fumes the substance produces can cause an “instant high.”

What effect do inhalants have on the user?

When any of these substances are inhaled, they pass quickly through the blood/brain barrier, producing a stimulating, light-headed sensation. The effect lasts only a few moments, which is why most inhalant users repeatedly “huff” (deliberately hyperventilating the concentrated fumes). The user may feel dizzy and disoriented, sometimes experiencing hallucinations. He or she may become aggressive or simply pass out.

What are the symptoms of someone under the influence of inhalants?

In addition to appearing to be drunk, dizzy or dazed, users may complain of headaches or nausea. They may have paint stains or strong chemical smells on their body or clothing. His or her breath may smell unusual. Because most of these chemicals are caustic, the user’s nose may bleed or become runny. The eyes may also be red, watery or bloodshot.

What are the potential dangers of using inhalants?

Using inhalants-even the very first time-can be deadly. Many substances rob the body of oxygen and cause the heart to beat rapidly and irregularly. This can lead to permanent brain damage, from the first “huff.”

Other health complications include loss of hearing, sense of smell and the ability to concentrate. This inability to concentrate may progress to short-term memory loss, resulting from the destruction of brain cells.