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Inhalants: Physical & Mental Effects, Signs of Abuse

Posted: September 11, 2020
Updated: October 5, 2020

What You’ll Learn About Inhalants

The term “inhalant” can be described as misused or volatile substances that are used to produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to provoke mind-altering, intoxication, or psychoactive effects.

Inhalants have a mixture of a variety of substances with common characteristics. Hence, it is difficult to categorize inhalants.

Through the page, we’ll be briefly explaining the physical and mental effects along with signs of abuse of ‘Inhalants’. At the end of it, you’ll be having a brief understanding of the drug Inhalants.


Understanding Inhalants

Inhalant is a drug containing toxic substances like volatile solvents, aerosols, gases, and nitrites that are inhaled in order to provoke intoxication or a mind-altering effect on the mind. It is one of the most common drugs which can nearly be found in an ordinary household.

Household products such as spray paint, correction fluid, gasoline, glue, shoe polish, lighter fluid, etc are considered as Inhalants.

These kinds of household products often leave similar effects like anesthetics, which generally slow down the functioning of the body. After inhaling, you may have a loss of inhibition due to drowsiness, agitation, and light-headedness.

Do Inhalants go by any other names or slang?

  • Primary Name: Inhalants
  • Scientific Name(s): Isobutyl nitrite, Amyl nitrite, Methamphetamine, Amphetamine
  • Street Name(s): Aimies, Bolt, Bullet, Dusting, Poppers, Quicksilver, Snot Balls, Whiteout, Airblast, Highball

What forms do inhalants come in?

Commonly known as Inhalants is the most common drug to be found at the house. You may find different forms of Inhalants in sprays, liquids, gases, and nitrates. 

  • LIQUID: You may be able to spot this form of Inhalants which is easily available in industrial and household products such as degreasers, glues, correction pens, felt-tip marker fluids, paint thinners, gasoline, etc. This form vaporizes at room temperatures. 
  • GASES: The gas form of Inhalants includes medical anesthetics such as chloroform, ether, nitrous oxide, etc. This also includes whipped cream dispensers, propane tanks, butane lighters, and refrigerants. 
  • NITRITES: This form is considered as a special class that acts directly on the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system. You may find this in a leather cleaner like shoe polish, room deodorizes, etc. 
  • SPRAYS: Another most easily available form includes hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays, spray paints, deodorant, etc

How Do People Consume Inhalants?

Inhalants are the drugs that have a common characteristic that it can be inhaled through nose or mouth in a number of ways. The most common ways to consume inhalants are:

  • Spraying products like aerosols directing into the mouth or nose. 
  • Bagging: an act of inhaling fumes from plastic or paper bag 
  • Huffing: stuffed mouth with an inhalant soaked rag.
  • Inhaling balloons with nitrous oxide. 

Inhalants consumption absorbs rapidly into the blood through the lungs further distributed to the brain and other organs. Within seconds, the consumer experiences mind-altering and intoxication effects. You may experience hallucinations, delusions, etc.

The Dangers of Inhalants

The chemical substances in inhalants may produce a variety of pharmacological effects. The rapid effect resembles intoxication, initial excitement, mind-alerting, etc which is followed by agitation,  drowsiness, lightheadedness, and disinhibition. It may lead to unconsciousness and a loss of sensation.

Signs + Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse 

Symptoms of Cocaine Abuse are not hard to detect, even as each individual uses and abuses the drug in different quantities. Below we breakdown the list of common symptoms and signs, varying from moderate abuse to severe.

Common Signs of Use

  • Change of personality
  • Clothing or breath contains chemical odors
  • Hidden discarded soaked rags, clothing or empty containers in the trash
  • Drunk appearance, irritability, headaches, red eyes, and slurred speech. 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sores around the mouth

Physical Symptoms

  • Weight loss.
  • Muscle weakness and lack of coordination.
  • Sores on the face, in the mouth or in the nose
  • Poor hygiene or grooming
  • Eczema on face
  • Tiredness

Psychological Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Euphoria
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Exhilaration
  • Head rush
  • Suicidal thoughts

Behavior Signs

  • Disorientation 
  • Inattentiveness.
  • Irritability
  • Excitement
  • Intense Cravings

Overdosing on Inhalants

The aftereffect of inhalants commonly lasts for a few minutes. This leads to repeating the inhaling process. The cyclical process increases the risk of overdose. For instance, in a case of sudden death due to sniffing, an overdose of inhalants can happen anytime while you use it. 

The risk of overdose is high in people who are: 

  • Long term users
  • Uses increasingly higher doses
  • Intensifying on combining substances.  

Overdosing Inhalants has the potential to be fatal. The over usage might result in death. Death occurs due to:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Sudden sniffing death
  • Choking 
  • Suffocation 
  • Seizures

Who is impacted by Inhalant Abuse?

Nowadays, experimentation with volatile substances like inhalants is common during early adolescence. The inhalants are primarily used in early adolescence from the age group of 12 to 17.  Since inhalants are readily available at home or office, it is the first drug that adolescents use. With major reports, we have come to the conclusion that inhalants are cheap, easily available, easy to use, and easy to hide.  Hence, children at early adolescence are the ones who are most impacted by inhalants abuse as they are very deadly and addictive.

Drug Testing or Detection

Laboratories may have chosen specific methods which depend on factors like quantity and nature. Generally, there is a two-tier screening process followed by a confirmatory analysis. The screening test might be able to identify prospective positive whereas confirmatory analysis gets more specific. 

The detection of the use of inhalants is hard. As the consumption of inhalants leaves signs which might be very small. As a result, you may not detect the presence of inhalants as the time blood or urine drug test is conducted the drug might have been eliminated from the body. Hence, you may notice a change in behavior or appearance of the consumer.

Cocaine Abuse Statistics, Laws, Punishments

  • According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the largest user group of inhalant users includes 9.8 percent of adults aged from 18 to 25.
  • As per 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey report, it has been concluded that in the past year 1.9% of high school seniors used inhalants.
  • 22% of the inhalant users had no previous history of inhalant abuse died due to Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.

Laws + Punishments

The Controlled Substances Act does not regulate inhalants, but 38 states of the United States have imposed restrictions on the sale and distribution to minors of specific products that are commonly used as inhalants. 

While some states in the US have also imposed fines, mandatory treatment on the sale, distribution, use, and/or possession of inhalant chemicals. There are laws in some of the states of the United States that prohibited the recreational inhalation of laughing gas that is nitrous oxide.