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Inhalants are Addictive

Inhalants are drugs that are inhaled into the lungs. They can be sprayed directly or taken indirectly by using tools. Often this is done with a rag that is soaked in some type of chemical. The ultimate goal is to achieve a high.

Inhalants are dangerous and addictive. Although other drugs may feature more in the news, inhalants are still incredibly dangerous. Millions of Americans have abused inhalants despite more attention paid in the news to people who abuse painkillers, cocaine, or alcohol. If you or your loved one is struggling with inhalant addiction, seek help today.

Types of Inhalants

There are many different chemicals that can be considered inhalants as they can be inhaled by people seeking a high. Nitrous oxide is an example, but even hairspray can be abused. Some inhalants have a medical use, while other inhalants are household cleaning products with toxic chemicals that can provide a short high.

Remember that chemicals are dangerous and can be deadly. Examples of inhalants include:

  • Volatile solvents: These are chemicals that become vapor or gas at room temperature. This category includes glue, lighter fluid, felt-tip markers, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning fluids.
  • Aerosols: This category includes spray deodorants, insect repellent, hair spray, and cooking oil sprays.
  • Gases: Nitrous oxide is a gas that can be abused, whether accessed through an empty whipped cream canister, a dental supply, or even more dangerously through propane tanks, lighters, or refrigerator canisters.
  • Nitrites: Known as isoamyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, or cyclohexyl nitrite, these substances are usually reserved for medical procedures or to treat chest pains.

How Inhalants Lead to Inhalant Addiction

Using inhalants is sometimes called huffing. This is because abusing inhalants is done by spraying them into your nose, or onto cloth and then breathing through the cloth. Huffing is a relatively easy method of obtaining a high, thus it is a common choice for children who abuse substances.

Methods of Inhalant Abuse

  • Sniffing or snorting directly from a container
  • “Bagging” – soaking the solution in a bag and then breathing in the fumes
  • Spraying into the nose or mouth. This is done typically with aerosols
  • Inhaling from a balloon

The “high” from inhalants is very short and typically only lasts 15 to 30 minutes.

At-Risk For Inhalant Addiction

About 22.5 million people in the United States have abused inhalants. Inhalants are typically legal substances that are abused by being used for the wrong purpose. Inhalant addiction is possible for anyone, but inhalant abuse is most prevalent in individuals under the age of 18.

The average age of inhalant addiction in the United States is 13 years old. One study showed that 68% of people who had used inhalants in the last year were under the age of 18. Another study found that 58% of people who had abused inhalants had done so by the end of their ninth-grade year. Inhalant abuse and addiction are especially dangerous and prevalent among young people.

Additionally, it has been shown that inhalant abuse often begins after experimenting with other substances, such as tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. Another risk group for inhalant addiction is dental professionals as they have access to nitrous oxide through their profession.

Signs of Inhalant Addiction

Most inhalants are central nervous system depressants, known as CNS depressants. This means that when you are high on inhalants, you may display symptoms similar to when someone is drunk on alcohol or high on opioids. Alternatively, nitrites are stimulants. They can cause hallucinations or symptoms similar to those associated with cocaine use.

Typical signs of inhalant abuse include:

  • Paint or chemical smell on clothing, skin, or breath
  • Stains on clothes from paints, solvents, or other chemicals
  • Stains on face or hands
  • Slurred speech
  • Acting drunk or disoriented
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Exhausted for many hours without a reason
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness or falling asleep during conversation
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rash found around the nose or mouth
  • Hiding paraphernalia like used rags, tissues, bags, and empty cans


Because inhalants are extremely addictive, their use can lead to withdrawal symptoms. When someone stops using them after a long period of use, their body and mind do not function well without the drug.

Symptoms of inhalant withdrawal include:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Panic and anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Sweating
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Physical and emotional agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Falling down
  • Loss of consciousness

Dangers of Inhalant Addiction

The use of inhalants is risky and can lead to death or long-term health consequences such as cancer or heart attacks. There is a risk of suffocation because your lungs absorb the drugs faster than oxygen. Sudden heart failure due to inhalant abuse is known as “sudden sniffing death syndrome”.

Short-Term Dangers of Inhalant Addiction

  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Delirium
  • Impaired judgment
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness

Long-Term Dangers of Inhalant Addiction

  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Heart problems
  • Brain damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage and failure
  • Oxygen depletion
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chronic pain

Dual Diagnosis

Many people suffering from addiction also suffer from a mental health disorder. Additionally, because one of the long-term effects of inhalant addiction can be psychosis, people with underlying mental health issues are even more at risk.

If you have a mental condition at the same time as an inhalant addiction, then you have a dual diagnosis. This is important to understand because both disorders should be addressed in a successful treatment.

Treatment For Inhalant Addiction

It is possible to find treatment centers that offer treatment for inhalant addiction. The most important starting point is that you are able to identify your inhalant addiction and admit to having a problem.

Inpatient rehab is often a good option if you or a loved one suffers from a severe inhalant addiction because you may suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient rehab offers medically supervised around-the-clock care. Additionally, individual and group therapy may help you to understand the factors that led you to addiction.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Also known as MAT, medication-assisted treatment can be helpful in treatment. Physicians may prescribe certain medications to decrease withdrawal symptoms or to interfere with cravings for a drug. However, MAT should never be used as a stand-alone treatment; it should always be used alongside other forms of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.

Inhalant Addiction is Serious

Inhalant abuse is a serious problem that does not always receive as much recognition as it deserves. Although it mainly affects children and teenagers, it can affect anyone. If you or someone you love is addicted to inhalants, seek help today.

Contact Resurgence Behavioral Health. Our consultations are confidential, and we offer free insurance verification for our services. Contact us today so we can develop a plan that works for you