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:
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Flushness of skin
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
- Lack of coordination
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.