Drug and Alcohol

Inhalant Abuse: The Dangers of Inhalant Use Disorder

Inhalant abuse is a misunderstood (and deadly) form of substance abuse. Learn about the risks, withdrawal symptoms and more in our blog.

Inhalant Abuse: What Do You Know About Inhalant Use Disorder?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

October 26, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Check this out: It's possible to abuse drugs without using drugs. How?

Inhalants.

Many household goods produce fumes that, when inhaled, can produce effects similar to drugs and alcohol. Inhalants are typically used by teenagers, but they can be used by people of all ages.

However, inhalant use disorder is not often discussed or treated as much as other types of substance abuse disorders. This is because it is not as prevalent or well-known compared to other substances like alcohol and opioids.

Despite this, the extent of inhalant use disorder should not be overlooked. It is a serious problem that can have severe consequences for those who engage in it.

Inhalant Abuse by the Numbers:

According to NIDA's Monitoring the Future (MTF) national survey (published in the National Institute on Drugs Abuse), 21.7 million 12+ adults have tried an inhalant at some point.

Inhalant Abuse: What is Inhalant Use Disorder?

Inhalant use disorder is classified as a type of substance use disorder (SUD), which is characterized by compulsive, prolonged, and harmful use of substances. It is a chronic condition that affects the brain and behavior, leading to various physical and psychological problems.

With inhalants, the main method of use is through inhalation. This can be done in various ways, including sniffing or snorting directly from containers, huffing fumes from a rag soaked in the substance, and spraying aerosols into the nose or mouth.

Inhalant Abuse: What are Inhalants Like?

The effects of inhalants on the body are wide-ranging and can include euphoria, hallucinations, dizziness, and loss of motor control. As a result, inhalant use can lead to accidents, injuries, and even death.

Despite being readily available in most homes, inhalants are often seen as "low-risk" substances for abuse. However, this is not the case. Inhalants contain chemicals that can be toxic and cause serious damage to the brain and other organs. Chronic use can also lead to long-term health problems, including neurological and cognitive impairments.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding and awareness surrounding inhalant use disorder, which leads to many cases going unnoticed or untreated. This is especially true for adolescents who may see inhalants as an easy way to get high without the stigma associated with other substances.

Inhalant Use Disorder: A Basic Understanding of Inhalant Abuse

Despite the harmful medical consequences, inhalant use disorder has increased extensively. Chronic abuse has significant and often irreversible effects. Widespread screening and prompt referrals to treatment programs have significantly improved those affected by mental, physical, and social conditions.

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Inhalant Abuse: How are Inhalants Misused?

Most people engage in inhalant abuse by inhaling the fumes from something from a balloon, paper, or plastic bag. This is known as sagging or huffing. Abusers of inhalants may also drip the drug down their arms and continue to sniff it. Abusers prolong the effect of a single inhalation for several hours by doing it repeatedly. Inhalant abusers may inhale the substance through their mouths, noses, or both.

People who use inhalants take one of four routes to get the drug into their systems: direct inhalation, inhalation of fumes from a container or dispenser, inhalation of aerosols, and covering the nose and mouth with a chemically saturated cloth.

Reasons for Inhalant Abuse

Unfortunately, there is a lack of understanding and awareness surrounding inhalant use disorder, which leads to many cases going unnoticed or untreated. This is especially true for adolescents who may see inhalants as an easy way to get high without the stigma associated with other substances.

Without proper education and intervention, inhalant use disorder can escalate to more severe forms of SUD or even other types of addiction.

Reasons for inhalant abuse include:

  • Peer pressure

  • Boredom

  • Curiosity

  • A desire for sensation-seeking

  • An interest in "legal highs" that are easier to obtain or can't be detected with drug tests

It is important for individuals to recognize the potential dangers of inhalant use and seek help if they or someone they know is struggling with inhalant use disorder.

The most recent SAMSHA estimates from 2021 indicate that inhalant use among children decreases after the 12th grade but remains highest among 8th graders.

Warning Signs of Inhalant Abuse

It can be challenging to spot inhalant use disorder, as it often goes undetected or is mistaken for other issues.

However, there are some warning signs that may indicate someone is abusing inhalants:

  • Slurred speech

  • Red or runny nose

  • Chemical smell on breath or clothing

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Frequent headaches or dizziness

  • Behavioral changes:

  • Sudden mood swings

  • Increased irritability or agitation

  • Loss of interest in usual activities

  • Secretive behavior or lying about whereabouts

  • Unexplained periods of drowsiness or fatigue

  • Social withdrawal and isolation

  • Changes in physical appearance, such as weight loss or unkempt appearance

If you notice any of these warning signs, it is essential to address the issue and seek help from a medical professional or addiction specialist

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What are the Harmful Effects of Inhalant Abuse?

As mentioned earlier, inhalant use can have severe consequences for those who engage in it. The harmful effects of inhalant abuse can be both short-term and long-term and can impact various aspects of a person's life.

Short-term effects may include:

  • Slurred speech and impaired coordination

  • Dizziness and disorientation

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headaches and drowsiness

  • Hallucinations and delusions

  • In severe cases, coma or death

Long-term effects may include:

  • Brain damage and cognitive impairment

  • Liver and kidney damage

  • Heart problems, including irregular heartbeat and heart failure

  • Respiratory issues, such as shortness of breath and bronchitis

  • Loss of sense of smell and taste

  • Muscle weakness and tremors

Various types of inhalants have been linked to causing sudden burning of the face and respiratory tract. Inhalants can have stimulatory effects as well as neurological effects. The fatalities caused by inhalant use disorder due to the high concentration of aerosols have increased. Chain inhalation can even cause HIV or may lead to erectile dysfunction in young adults.

Inhalants affect neurotransmitter release and receptors in various ways, with a few cellular actions similar to those of other psychiatric drugs such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, and barbiturates. The aftermath of inhalation has proven to be a difficult stage for coping for the family as well as the victims.

 What Types of Inhalants Do People Abuse?

There are various types of inhalants that people may abuse, and they can be found in numerous household products. Some of the most commonly abused inhalants include:

Solvents

These are liquids or gasses found in products like paint thinner, glue, or gasoline. They produce a feeling of euphoria and disorientation when inhaled.

Aerosols

Aerosol sprays, such as those used for air fresheners or deodorants, contain substances like butane that can be abused for their intoxicating effects.

Gases

Household products like whipped cream dispensers (called "whippets" or "whip-its") and propane tanks contain gases like nitrous oxide that can be inhaled for their intoxicating effects.

Nitrites

Also known as "poppers," these chemicals are found in certain room deodorizers and video head cleaners. They can create a brief rush of euphoria and arousal when inhaled.

Treatment Options for Inhalant Use Disorder

Like other forms of SUD, inhalant use disorder is treatable. The most effective approach to treatment is usually a combination of therapy, medication, and support from loved ones.

Some common treatment strategies include:

  • Counseling: Individual or group therapy can help individuals understand and address the underlying issues that led to their inhalant use disorder. This can include addressing peer pressure, boredom, or other reasons for abuse.

  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms or co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.

  • Support groups: Support from others who have gone through similar experiences can be highly beneficial for those in recovery from inhalant use disorder.

  • Family therapy: Involving loved ones in the treatment process can help repair strained relationships and provide a supportive environment for the individual's recovery journey.

It is essential to seek professional help when addressing inhalant use disorder, as it can be a complex issue that requires specialized care. With proper treatment and support, individuals can overcome inhalant use disorder and lead healthy, fulfilling lives free from substance abuse.

So, it is crucial to spread awareness about the dangers of inhalant abuse and promote understanding and compassion towards those struggling with this disorder. Remember, recovery is possible, and no one should have to suffer alone in silence.

Keep the conversation going, educate yourself and others on inhalant use disorder, and seek help if needed.

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Do you need advice about inhalant abuse? Reach out today.

Inhalant Abuse: Are There Withdrawal Symptoms from Inhalants?

Yes, withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone stops using inhalants after a period of regular use. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Headaches

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Shakiness or tremors

  • Sweating

  • Irritability or mood swings

  • Difficulty concentrating

In some cases, more severe withdrawal symptoms can occur, such as seizures or hallucinations. It is essential to seek medical supervision when detoxing from inhalants to ensure a safe and comfortable withdrawal process.

Inhalant Abuse: How Can You Help Someone with Inhalant Use Disorder?

If you know someone who is struggling with inhalant use disorder, here are some ways you can help:

Educate Yourself

Learn about inhalants and the warning signs of abuse so that you can better understand what your loved one may be going through. This will also help you to approach the situation with knowledge and compassion.

Express Concern

If you notice warning signs or suspect your loved one may be using inhalants, express your concern in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Let them know that you are there for them and want to help.

Encourage Seeking Professional Help

Offer to help your loved one find a therapist or treatment program that specializes in substance use disorders. Be patient and understanding, as it may take time for them to be ready to seek help.

Avoid Enabling Behaviors

It can be challenging to see a loved one struggle with addiction, but it is essential to avoid enabling behaviors such as providing money or making excuses for their behavior. Instead, encourage them to seek treatment and support their recovery journey.

Practice Self-Care

Supporting someone with inhalant use disorder can be emotionally taxing, so it is crucial to take care of yourself as well. Seek support from friends and family, practice self-care activities, and consider therapy or support groups for yourself as well.

Inhalant Abuse: How is Inhalant Use Disorder Treated?

Inhalant use disorder, like other forms of substance use disorder (SUD), is treatable with proper care and support. Treatment for inhalant use disorder typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support from loved ones.

Therapy

Individual or group therapy can help individuals understand the underlying reasons for their inhalant abuse and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Therapy can also address any co-occurring mental health disorders that may be contributing to the inhalant use disorder.

Medication

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage withdrawal symptoms or treat co-occurring mental health issues like depression or anxiety. However, medication alone is not sufficient for treating inhalant use disorder and should be used alongside therapy and other forms of support.

Support Groups

Support groups can provide a safe and understanding environment for individuals in recovery from inhalant use disorder. These groups offer peer support, education, and practical coping strategies to help individuals stay on track with their recovery journey.

Involving Loved Ones

Inhalant use disorder can have a significant impact on an individual's relationships with loved ones. Family therapy can help repair strained relationships and provide a supportive environment for the individual's recovery.

Seeking Professional Help

It is crucial to seek professional help when addressing inhalant use disorder, as it can be a complex issue that requires specialized care. With the right treatment and support, individuals can overcome inhalant use disorder and lead healthy, fulfilling lives free from substance abuse.

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We’re here to help you find your way

Would you like more information about inhalant abuse? Reach out today.

Inhalant Abuse Can Be Lethal. Reach Out to The Edge Treatment Center Today

With very few exceptions, inhalants weren't created for human use. That's why this is such an exceptionally dangerous form of substance abuse; these chemicals have unpredictable effects when ingested. Getting help for inhalant abuse is critical.

If you or someone you know is struggling with inhalant use disorder, do not hesitate to reach out for help. The Edge Treatment Center offers comprehensive treatment programs for individuals seeking recovery from substance use disorders, including inhalant use disorder.

Our team of experienced professionals can provide personalized care and support to help individuals overcome their addiction and achieve long-term recovery. We offer a range of evidence-based therapies, medication-assisted treatment, and support groups to address all aspects of inhalant use disorder.

Don't wait until it's too late. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and start your journey towards a healthier, happier life free from inhalant abuse. Remember, recovery is possible, and we are here to help you every step of the way.

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