Inhalants: Everything You Need to Know

One of the most common and easily accessible substances abused by teenagers today are found in almost every home. Solvents, glue, laughing gas, whippitts, gas, nitrous, blue bottle, liquid incense, room deodorizer, rush, locker room, poppers, snappers -- all of these are slang names for the breathable substances inhalants. While other substances such as alcohol and marijuana may be more commonly thought of as drugs, inhalants are also mood-altering substances with similar dangers and patterns of use. Because inhalants were originally developed for legitimate purposes, their consideration as psychoactive drugs was minimal, until now. Unfortunately, even a single episode of inhalant use can put major body organs are put at risk.

Inhalants include three classes of substances:

  1. Solvents, such as nail polish remover, gasoline and typewriter correction fluid.
  2. Aerosols, such as hair spray and paint thinners.
  3. Anesthetics, such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

The typical method of use for inhalants is sniffing through the nasal cavity. Its potential for dependence includes possible addiction. Signs and symptoms of inhalant use include: runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, drowsiness, poor motor coordination, presence of inhalant paraphernalia, such as bags or rags, discarded whipped cream or similar cans, or small bottles and the odor of substance on breath or clothes

Particularly for young teenagers, abuse of inhalants can be very simple due to these chemicals being inexpensive and readily available. Glues are usually inhaled from a bag, which increases the chance of suffocation. Solvents, paint thinners and other solutions are typically inhaled directly out of the container or sniffed out of a cloth saturated with the solution. Gasoline and other propellant gases may be inhaled directly from gas tanks, which include lawnmowers and other house maintenance equipment.

Because inhalants are fat-soluble and organic in their composition, they easily pass through the bloodstream for metabolism in the liver and kidneys. The immediate reaction of the body is to slow its functions, creating a sense of being "high," and can last 15 to 45 minutes. Depending on the amount sniffed and user characteristics, slight stimulation to unconsciousness may occur.

Short-term effects of inhalant use include:

Even with a single episode of inhalant use, major body organs are put at risk. Inhalants can cause the kidneys to shut down. When this happens, the body can no longer rid itself of waste, possibly resulting in death. Because the heart may beat abnormally, breathing may suddenly stop. Another possibility for breathing to stop may occur as the inhalant coats the lungs and impedes oxygen from getting into the bloodstream. The serious liver disease, hepatitis, may result from inhalant use. Because inhalants are depressants, brain cells quickly die, slowing down the body's reaction and likely leading to brain damage. Finally, development of tolerance happens very quickly from use of inhalants. The user may find him/herself needing more of the substance, or searching for other substances to achieve a state of intoxication for a now dependent, and possibly addicted, body.

Drug Information

Other Names and Products

Nitrous oxide, laughing gas, whippets, aerosol sprays such as hair spray and deodorant, cleaning fluids, solvents, model airplane glue, degreaser, nail polish remover, correction fluid and lighter fluid.

How Are They Used?

Vapors are inhaled.

What Do They Look Like?

Nitrous oxide comes in a metal cylinder, sold in a balloon or whipped cream aerosol spray can. Other inhalants include common household products like spray paint, gas, correction fluid, paint thinner and glue.

Did You Know?

Even with a single episode of inhalant use, major body organs are put at risk.

All inhalants can be toxic.

The more times you use inhalants, the more harmful the effects.

Instead of taking drugs, there are other positive ways to enjoy yourself that will make your life better, not worse.

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