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What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants are those substances that can give you a “high” feeling when you breathe in. These contain vapors that you can inhale through mouth or nose. The factory-manufactured industrial products will be abused for purposes other than originally intended.

These volatile substances produce chemical vapors, which when inhaled, induce a psychoactive or mind-altering condition. A variety of substances fall under this category that encompasses a broad range of chemicals causing plenty of pharmacological effects. There are hundreds of different products that contain inhalants chemicals, making a precise categorization all the more challenging.

Based on the inhalant mechanism of action, they are divided into various categories, some of which can be found lying around the house:


Substances that can diffuse a fine spray when under pressure:

  • Paint spray cans
  • Cosmetic products like hair sprays
  • Fabric conditioners
  • Cooking oil sprays

Volatile Solvents

Liquids that can release volatile fumes at room temperature:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Paint emulsions or thinners
  • Gasoline
  • Glue and white out


Typically used for medical or cleaning purposes:

  • Video head or leather cleaner nitrates
  • Butyl nitrites (in heart medication)
  • Amyl nitrite (for chest pain)


Substances used at home, or for medical and commercial use:

  • Propane (grilling fuel)
  • Butane fireplace lighters
  • Anesthetic agents like chloroformte
  • Nitrous oxide (sedative)
  • Whipped cream cans

While many parents are concerned about their children falling into the trap of alcohol or drugs, they forget that their home stores equally dangerous substances. Curious children may unknowingly figure out the inhalant uses and may mark their entry into addiction.

Inhalants Abuse – Ways Of Intake

As many as there are types of inhalants, their intake methods also vary. The common way to abuse inhalants is by huffing them, where users may soak a rag in a liquid inhalant and hold it up to their nose or mouth and inhale the vapors. Some may even directly breathe in the fumes by opening the container. Other paraphernalia includes paper bags, plastic covers, balloons, and such. These methods are known as sniffing, bagging, and snorting.

Many people like to heat the chemicals to achieve enhanced effects. There is no particular inhalant that is beyond use for many abusers. However, some people may have their favorites. They may go to any lengths to obtain their preferred substance, just like any other street or illicit drug. For instance, there is a product called “Texas shoeshine,” which contains a chemical called toluene. It is one of the most popular inhalants with people with addiction in the U.S.

Symptoms Of Inhalants Drugs Effects On The Body

Inhalants-induced high is very intense, but it only lasts just a few minutes. Thus, people often use different ways to intensify and prolong the effects by continuing to inhale repeatedly over several hours.

Since the chemicals get absorbed rapidly into your lungs and bloodstream, they get distributed to all the organs in your body, especially the brain, and you can feel the inhalants drugs harmful effects instantly – within a few seconds. Most inhalants can slow down brain activity by attacking the central nervous system, and people may lose control of their bodily functions. The intoxication effects can be compared with those of alcohol, where you may experience symptoms like slurred speech, uncoordinated movements, dizziness, euphoria, etc.

Some users may exhibit additional symptoms of inhalants abuse, such as lightheadedness, hallucinations, change in perceptions, and delusions. As people use more and more of these drugs, they lose all self-consciousness and may start vomiting or have lingering headaches and feel drowsy for increasingly longer periods. Nitrates are some of the common prescription inhalants drugs with symptoms that are more dangerous. They are more often misused as they expand and relax the blood vessels and cause improved sexual pleasure.

Inhalant Addiction Statistics

Inhalant Intoxication

Except for the nitrates mentioned above, other inhalants cause pleasurable sensations in the users. They act as central nervous system (CNS) depressants and soothe the brain. Since they are easily available around the house, children may access them all the time.

However, the euphoria is short-lived. To prolong their high state, abusers breathe them back-to-back. Inhalants addiction can cause grave consequences, particularly when successive inhalations happen in a short period. They become unconscious, and sometimes, this may evenlead to coma or inhalant overdose deaths.

The symptoms of inhalants overdose usually mimic that of the short-term effects of alcohol addiction. People with addiction have impaired judgment, reduced motor functions, and temporary hallucinations, which make them all the more dangerous on the road or behind the wheel. Inhalants overdose happens when users take the drug in rapid successions or if the dosages are high. They may also have a toxic reaction from the chemicals or use multiple drugs at the same time – any of which can result in serious, harmful consequences.

Seizures, coma, and death are likely when highly-concentrated solvents and aerosol sprays are used. They have large amounts of chemical compounds with various active ingredients that can be highly volatile. When these products are sniffed, inhalants addiction statistics indicate that they can stop the heart abruptly. This can happen to otherwise healthy people that have inhaled these products for the very first time. Using other drug intake equipment like plastic or paper bags in an enclosed area can lead to suffocation and death.

If you think that someone you know is having an inhalants overdose episode, do not delay in contacting the emergency services in your area. The first responders and ER doctors start the treatment by addressing the overdose conditions mentioned here. Stopping the seizures and restarting the heart should be performed as soon as possible.

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As said above, nitrate, unlike other inhalants, are not CNS depressants. However, they can expand and relax the blood vessels in the body, which is why they are abused to improve sexual prowess in the users. For this goal, they even mix inhalants and alcohol and participate in indiscretions and risky sexual activities.

Inhalant side effects

Under the influence, they may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Lack of motor control
  • Euphoria or high
  • Slurred speech
  • Distorted vision
  • Hallucinations

Severe signs like asphyxiation, rapid heart rate, and suffocation can show up at a time, and even first-time users of inhalants are reported to die of this “sudden sniffing death.”

Whether it is an individual’s first time or 100th, there is a dangerous possibility that inhalants addiction can lead to death. Sniffing or huffing these chemicals and toxic fumes can also cause multiple health complications later in life. Some of those adverse medical conditions are heart failure, tissue death, muscular overstimulation, the suffocation of the lungs, etc. Since the lungs absorb more chemicals in a short time, they end up disrupting and displacing oxygen. Brain, breath, heart, and other functionalities reduce and body vitality diminishes. The brain gets filled with toxins, leading to a reduced quality of life in the users, and early.

Risk Of Recreational Use Of Inhalants (Inhalants addiction)

Unlike other addictive substances, no medical reason, i.e., prescription use of inhalants addiction. Using the drugs as per the doctor’s orders cannot cause dependence. Only when the users take matters into their hands and self-medicate or use for recreational purposes, they develop a tolerance.

Particularly, substances like nitrous oxide, which is typically used as a sedative in surgical procedures, may not be as easily found on the streets, even if people try to purchase them. On the other hand, household items like hairsprays, glue, shoe polish, or lighter fluid are primarily involved in recreational abuse. But there is no legitimate reason.

Typically, inhalants are “highly-lipid soluble” substances that have no trouble passing via the alveoli in the lungs. Hence, they also get accepted into the bloodstream, along with oxygen supply as there is no blood-brain barrier restricting their movement. They get depleted very soon, usually in under half an hour, which means prolonging the high of inhalants is only possible with continual usage in a short span. When that is not done, people with inhalants addiction can face intense withdrawal symptoms of inhalants. There are also at a higher risk of physical damage.

Treatment For Inhalants Addiction

Inhalants addiction symptoms are not due to its low potential for physical dependence but as a result of emotional tolerance. They get psychologically addicted, and quitting their vice or not getting their regular hit can cause them to go into withdrawal. Based on different factors, the severity of withdrawal may vary, which is why experts advise that you must get the appropriate medical treatment.

Many inhalants addiction treatment centers in the country offer comprehensive programs to help you deal with abuse issues. Talk therapy, behavioral modification plans, counseling, and other complementary therapies ensure a full recovery. Experts may also perform a psychological evaluation to detect underlying psychological reasons for your addiction. It can help you prevent future cravings and relapse.

Inhalants addiction grave problem, with which many teens, children, and adults can get affected. Find the right assistance in time to avoid toxic dangers. You can use the AddictionAide website to refine your search for inhalants addiction treatment centers.


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