Inhalant Abuse Symptoms and Effects

drug rehabilitation in wilmington NCInhalant abuse can be hard to detect because regular household products are used to get high. The more information a person has about inhalant abuse, and its symptoms and effects, the better chance he or she can spot a loved one who may have a problem.

An inhalant is a substance that can be inhaled, such as a solvent or aerosol. Users breathe in the chemical through their nose, also known as “huffing.” They may also sniff fumes through their mouths from paper bags or balloons. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that inhalants are more abused by children and younger teenagers, which is likely due to the availability of the products.

The list of inhalants used to get high can be divided into four categories: inhalants, aerosols, gasses and nitrates. Here are some examples of the products used.

Lighter fluid
Paint thinner
Correction fluid

Hair spray
Deodorant in a can
Spray paint
Fabric protector sprays
Vegetable oil sprays

Butane lighters
Propane tanks
Whipped cream in a can
Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)

These are less common because they are not found in regular household products. When they are used for illegal purposes, they are found in stores that package it in brown bottles with names such as:
Video head cleaner
Room odorizer
Leather cleaner
Liquid aroma

A person who is high on inhalants may have the same characteristics of someone who is drunk because it has the same effect – it suppresses the central nervous system. They may have slurred speech and may seem to be uncoordinated. They also may have red eyes or a runny nose, and could have spots or sores around the mouth.

Inhalants give a person a sense of euphoria, but can also cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and in some cases, can cause hallucinations. Because the high only lasts a few minutes, abusers try to prolong it by repeating it over several hours. Repeated use of inhalants can suppress a person’s inhibitions, cause drowsiness that lasts several hours, as well as confusion, nausea and vomiting.

In some cases, just one instance of use can be deadly. If someone inhales a highly concentrated amount of a chemical from solvents or aerosol sprays, it can cause heart failure and death within minutes. This is known as sudden sniffing death syndrome. For a repeated user, the risk increases substantially.

Inhalants can damage a number of organs including the kidneys, liver and heart. It also depletes oxygen in the blood, which can cause a condition known as hypoxia, which can damage cells in the brain. Depending on the part of brain affected, it can cause memory loss, difficulty concentrating or worse.

Inhalants also cause damage to the central nervous system and a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which damages nerves and causes weakness and numbness in the hands and feet.

Like any drug, repeated use causes a tolerance to build up in the user. Someone will have to take more of it to get the same effect, and therefore increase the risk of harmful side effects or death. If you suspect someone you know is using inhalants, it is important for them to get help.

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