You may have heard about children sniffing glue or nail polish remover to get high. Products that are used like this are known as “inhalants.” Inhalants come in many forms, and are broken down into four categories which include:

  • Volatile solvents: Examples of these inhalants include paint thinners, gasoline, glue, felt-tip markers and correction fluids.
  • Aerosols: Examples of these inhalants include spray paints, deodorant sprays, hair sprays and vegetable oil sprays.
  • Gases: Examples of these inhalants include butane lighters, propane tanks and refrigerants.
  • Nitrites: Examples of these inhalants include amyl nitrite, nitric oxide and nitroglycerin.

Inhalant abuse is typically associated with children and teenagers, though adults can also use them too.

The Effects Of Inhalant Abuse

A person may directly inhale an inhalant, an act which is known as “sniffing” or “snorting.” Other ways of using inhalants include sniffing fumes that are in a bag, known as “bagging;” “huff” inhalants from a soaked rag soaked; suck them from a balloon, such as with nitrous oxide.

When a person uses inhalants, it has an anesthetic effect, slowing down the central nervous system (except for nitrite inhalants). Like many drugs, inhalants target the brain’s reward center, causing it to flood with dopamine and giving people a pleasurable high. That’s followed by drowsiness, lightheadedness and disinhibition. The effects are very similar to alcohol intoxication, but at a far faster rate.

With nitrites, they dilate the blood vessels and relax the muscles. They are often used as sexual enhancers.

The side effects of different types of inhalants are pretty similar. They include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Belligerence
  • Impaired judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Flushness of skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations

The effects of inhalants are short-term, which can lead to someone abusing inhalants over and over to get high. Symptoms of inhalant abuse include:

  • Chemical odors on a person or their clothes
  • Stains, such as from paint, on a person’s hands, clothing or face
  • Empty cans or rags soaked with a chemical smell
  • A person appears “drunk”
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Inattentiveness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Those who abuse inhalants over the long-term are also at risk for developing an addiction to them. This will cause them to compulsively seek out inhalants, often at the expense of everything else.

Harmful Effects Of Inhalants

Inhalants are highly toxic, and can damage the brain and central nervous system, effecting movement, vision and hearing. Long-term use of inhalants can damage the hearts, lungs, liver and kidneys. Other effects include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Memory impairment
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage

Potentially fatal symptoms include:

  • Loss of consciousness from overdose
  • Sudden sniffing death syndrome, typically associated with inhalants such as butane, propane and air conditioning coolant
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Choking
  • Suffocation
  • Seizures
  • Asphyxiation

Due to how dangerous they can be on the mind and body, it is important that a person that abuses inhalants or is addicted to them, seeks treatment for inhalants as soon as possible. Without treatment, inhalant abuse or addiction can eventually lead to death.

Treatment For Inhalants

Inhalant treatment can be difficult. Just admitting a person who needs treatment is hard, as a parent may not realize what their child is doing or not realize how harmful every day household items can be. There are also long-term health effects as inhalants can stay in the organs of the body for a long time even with treatment and can cause permanent damage. The earlier inhalant treatment is started, the better.

First a person goes through detox process, where they rid of the body of as much of the inhalants as possible. They may go through inhalant withdrawal symptoms too, and should have their inhalants withdrawal symptoms treated by a medical profession to help lessen the worst of them and prevent relapse.

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Inhalants withdrawal symptoms can include some of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Agitation
  • Chills
  • Tremors

Once finished with detox, therapy is incredibly important in treatment for inhalants. Individual, group or family therapy is especially helpful in helping a person understand the nature of addiction and learn the skills they need to live drug-free. Any co-occurring illnesses, such as depression, will also need to be treated to help a person recover. After their initial inhalant treatment, a person should seek supportive care, such as a 12-step program.

A person may need follow-up care to determine the long-term health effects of inhalants on their body.

If you or your loved one need treatment for inhalant abuse, Sovereign Health of El Paso, Texas, offers world-class care. To find out more about our treatment for inhalants, contact our 24/7 helpline today.

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