What are inhalants?

What are inhalants?

Inhalants are chemicals that produce vapors that have psychoactive effects. Adolescents, especially those who may not have enough money for drugs, usually try inhalants. Kids, ages 9 - 12, may begin to abuse inhalants. Abuse usually peaks in adolescence. Parents should be aware that teenage users are found in all racial, socioeconomic, engender groups. Many users come from broken families or families that have been affected by alcohol and drug problems. They may also have difficulty in school such as truancy and poor grades.

The most commonly abused inhalants include:

- aerosols
- gasoline
- paint thinners
- spray paints
- model airplane glue
- cleaning fluids
- typewriter correction fluid
- kerosene
- butane
- laughing gas

There are several methods used to inhale these intoxicating fumes.

- Some users soak a rag in the substance, place it against his or her mouth or nose and then inhale.
- Others place the substance in a paper or plastic bag and inhale.
- Others inhale the vapors directly from the container it is in.

Health Risks


- inhalant displaces the oxygen in the lungs
- plastic bags covering their heads to inhale the substance
- inhaling vomit into their lungs while they are high

Chronic users can suffer from serious medical complications:

- death may occur from depression of the central nervous system
- instant, fatal heart failure (even during first use)
- blood abnormalities
- destruction of bone marrow and skeletal muscle
- respiratory damage
- kidney failure
- hepatitis with liver failure

Symptoms of Abuse

Inhalants reach the lungs, bloodstream, and other parts of the body quickly. Intoxication occurs within five minutes of inhaling the drug and can last for more than an hour. Inhalants make people feel "giddy" and give them a temporary sense of well-being. Even though inhalant users do not report the intense rush that other drugs like cocaine have, the substance does interfere with the way they think. This causes users to act in dangerous or destructive ways.

When a person is intoxicated, he or she may experience any of the following:

- dizziness
- incoordination
- involuntary eye movement
- nausea
- sneezing
- coughing
- nosebleeds
- slurred speech
- slow reflexes
- tremor
- muscle weakness
- blurred vision
- coma
- euphoria
- loss of appetite
- impaired judgment

There are ways to tell if someone has been abusing inhalants:

- rash around the nose and mouth
- breath odors
- residue on face, hands, and clothing
- redness
- swelling
- tearing of the eyes
- irritation of throat, lungs, and nose that causes coughing and gagging
- nausea
- headaches

If you or someone you know suffers from any of these symptoms, please contact a doctor immediately.