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Inhalant Addiction

Common household aerosols or solvents might not seem to be that big a deal, but for those that inhale them to get “high, ”they can be a big problem. These substances, commonly called inhalants, might not be abused as much as some other drugs out there, but they are still considered dangerous and addictive.

Inhalants are most commonly used by teenagers. One reason is that teens have easy access to inhalants. They might want a quick “high” and reaching for an inhalant can often be the easiest way. If it’s not at their home, they can easily go to the store and purchase whatever they’re seeking. However, what they might not realize is that even one-time inhaling volatile chemicals can result in severe consequences – perhaps even death. 

Inhalants alter the mind, causing effects that are similar to alcohol. There are many chemicals that go into different kinds of inhalants found around the U.S. They can be called by many names, such as hippie crack, laughing gas, whippets, or huff. They include common household substances such as cleaning products, gasoline, and more.

Types of Inhalants

Some common items that are considered inhalants are things that have gases that can be inhaled, as well as anesthetics that can reduce pain. Aesthetic gases include nitrous oxide, which is also known as laughing gas.  You may have heard of dentists using this on their patients before performing a dental procedure. You can also find nitrous oxide in cans of whipping cream.

Another popular inhalant is amyl nitrite, which has been used in the medical field to increase blood going to the heart in individuals with heart disease. They are often in their own class because their primary function is as a muscle relaxant, which is different from how other inhalants affect individuals. Types of substances that can be considered an inhalant include:

Solvents: Paint thinners, gasoline, lighter fluid, felt tip markers, nail polish, glue, and other liquid substances.

Aerosols: Spray paint, vegetable oil sprays, hair spray, deodorant spray, and cleaning products.

Gases: Chloroform, freon, whipped cream dispensers, ether, propane tanks, laughing gas, and more.

Nitrites: Any kind of cleaner for leather or video heads, as well as air fresheners and liquid fragrance for the home.

If you suspect inhalant abuse in your home, look for signs that the individual is using the inhalant. You may also find a professional to help you approach the situation properly and avoid making the situation worse. It takes sensitivity when approaching a loved one that may be using inhalants.

Signs of Inhalant Addiction

It can be a bit challenging to detect when someone is abusing inhalants. This is due to the short time the effects are present in the body, and often there are various inhalants in the home. You might not notice if a can of paint thinner is missing or if the whipped cream in the fridge is being abused. There are many different substances that can be abused and act as inhalants from keyboard dusters to hair spray to gasoline. Hiding inhalant abuse is easier for individuals than it is to hide other drugs since these are everyday items.

However, there are some things you can look for when trying to figure out whether or not your loved one is abusing inhalants. These include:

  • A runny nose
  • Unusual smell of the breath
  • Stains from paint or oil on the clothes or the face
  • The appearance of being drunk
  • Sores in or around the mouth
  • Red eyes
  •  Loss of appetite
  •  Increase in anxiety

Why Are Inhalants Addictive?

Any inhalant has the potential to become abused. Inhalants can cause dependence due to their strong effect on the reward system of the brain. Abusing the drug repeatedly rewires the brain in much the same way as other drugs and addictive substances. However, the use of inhalants is most prevalent in teens and tends to discontinue as teens become older.

Inhalants can be dangerous, and the effects of the damage caused by them can be permanent. This is due to the potential of many to fall or injure themselves, especially if they black out. Though inhalants are less abused, they are just as dangerous as other drugs.

Effects of Inhalant Abuse

Depending on the type of inhalant consumed, the effects may be different depending on the individual. The immediate side effects of inhalants can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  •  Vomiting
  •  Disorientation
  •  Headaches
  • Convulsions
  •  Suffocation
  •  Coma

The damage caused by using inhalants can be significant if use of the substance is continued. The good news is that the effects can be reversed if the inhalant stops being abused before lasting damage occurs. Permanent effects can include damage to the liver, lungs, kidneys, brain, and damage to brain cells that causes memory loss and problems learning new things. If individuals are under 25 years old, the effects may be more dangerous since their brains are not fully developed and development may be stunted due to drug use.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Stopping the use of inhalants once your body has gotten used to it can cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be the cause of several different psychological and physical factors. They are typically mild when inhalants are used, but if use has been prolonged, seizures may occur. Some withdrawal symptoms that may affect individuals abusing inhalants include:

  • Tremors in the hands
  • Cravings
  • Psychosis
  •  Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Bursts of anger
  • Problems concentrating
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Dizziness
  •  Runny nose
  •  Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Agitation
  •  Irritability
  • Insomnia

Withdrawal symptoms can last for up to two years, but the worst of them will subside in about a week after use of the drug has been discontinued. If severe abuse of inhalants has occurred, it’s best to seek help from a detox or substance abuse professional for ongoing monitoring during the withdrawal period.

Sources

Drug Free World. Inhalants. from https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/inhalants/are-inhalants-addictive.html

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Inhalants. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/letter-director

National Institute Prevention Coalition. About Inhalants. from http://www.inhalants.org/about.htm

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