Facts about Inhalants
Inhalants from aerosol cans or marking pens are sought after for a brief high, but users risk organ damage and sudden death.
What Are Inhalants?
Inhalants and solvents are chemicals found in household products such as glue, dry cleaning fluids, or gasoline. The fumes or vapors are intentionally inhaled for mood- altering effects. Because inhalants are found in products that are designed to remove stains, kill weeds, or waterproof surfaces, they can cause substantial damage to the body and organs.
There are four general categories of inhalants:
- Volatile solvents: paint thinners and removers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, glues, correction fluids, and felt-tip marker fluids.
- Aerosols: spray paints, deodorant and hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays for cooking, and fabric protector sprays.
- Gases: Medical anesthetic gases include ether, chloroform, and nitrous oxide, commonly called “laughing gas.” Household or commercial products containing gases include butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers, and refrigerants.
- Nitrites: often are considered a special class of inhalants and are commonly known as poppers or snappers.
Source: Drug Enforcement Administration
How Does Inhalant Use Affect a Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorder?
Many people with a mental health problem turn to substances to feel better. For example, a person who is depressed may turn to inhalants to feel better. Because the euphoria is brief, the person will probably repeat the usage, increasing the risk for addiction, overdose, and even death. What’s more, the symptoms of inhalant use can mask and mimic mental health symptoms. Inhalant-induced hallucinations, for example, might be mistaken for signs of schizophrenia—resulting in ineffective treatment.
How Does Inhalant Use Affect the Brain?
The effects of inhalants are similar to those of alcohol, including slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness. Inhalant abusers may also experience lightheadedness, hallucinations, and delusions. Inhalants deprive the body of oxygen, a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia can damage cells throughout the body, but the cells of the brain are especially sensitive to it. Someone who repeatedly uses inhalants may lose the ability to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations. Other effects from inhalants can be lethal or irreversible.
Is Addiction to Inhalants Widespread?
Although not very common, addiction to inhalants can occur with repeated abuse. In a 2006 study, less than 0.1 percent of individuals admitted to substance abuse treatment reported addiction to inhalants as their primary substance of abuse. However, of those individuals who reported inhalants as their primary substance, nearly half were adolescents aged twelve to seventeen.
Where Can I Learn More?
- drugabuse.gov A National Institute on Drug Abuse Web site.
- familydoctor.org A consumer Web site of general health information, including addiction and mental illness.
- healthyplace.com This easy-to-search consumer Web site contains extensive information about severe mental illness and specific drug use.
- inhalants.org An informational site created by the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition.
- justice.gov/dea/concern/inhalants.html Information provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
- samhsa.gov and csat.samhsa.gov These U.S. government Web sites are dedicated to mental health and substance abuse treatment, respectively.
Source: NIDA InfoFacts: Inhalants