Health Risks and the Real Effects of Inhalants


Inhalants are general household products that are purposely breathing often by children or teens to experience a 'high.' Most inhalants are readily available and cheap. Many can be obtained legally, even by minors. The average age at which teens first try these drugs is 13.

Fumes from these products are inhaled directly from product containers or poured or sprayed on an absorbent material, such as a sock or rag (this is called "huffing") or a roll of toilet paper. Some users inhale fumes from a paper or plastic bag (this is called "bagging") or a rubber balloon which is held over the mouth and nose.

Inhalants are general household products that are purposely breathing often by children or teens to experience a 'high.'

Commonly Abused Inhalants Include:

Solvents - paint thinners or removers, degreasers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, glue, felt-tip-marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners. Gasses - butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols or dispensers ("whippets"), refrigerant gasses, spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, fabric protector sprays, aerosol computer cleaning products, ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide ("laughing gas").

Nitrites cyclohexyl, butyl, and amyl nitrites are commonly known as "poppers." Amyl nitrite is still used for medical purposes. Amyl nitrite is usually packaged in small, crushable glass or plastic capsules, known as poppers or snappers. Butyl nitrite often comes in a bottle or spray can and is sold as an air freshener under such names as Rush and Locker Room.

How Do Inhalants Affect the User?

Users report initial sensations of a pleasant, dreamy state of consciousness. During and soon after the initial high wears off, physical coordination and mental judgment are impaired. Users often suffer falls and other accidents (including road accidents), and may engage in irresponsible or dangerous behavior.

Physical effects include Irritation of the mouth, throat and lung that can provoke severe coughing, painful inflammation or nosebleeds; intense facial flushing, feelings of severe weakness and dizziness, and heart palpitations; mental confusion, hallucinations, short-term blindness and delusions of persecution (paranoia).

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse are a sweetish, chemical smell on the clothes or body; Inflammation of the nostrils, frequent nosebleeds, or a rash around the nose and mouth; Poor appetite and loss of weight; Pale, bluish skin; Watery, bloodshot eyes with dilated pupils; Slow, slurred speech; Clumsy, staggering gait and drunken appearance.

What are the Dangers of Inhalant Abuse?

In addition to the dangerous side effects listed above, even first-time users run the risk of sudden sniffing death (SSD). Abusers may suffer fatal irregularity of heartbeat (arrhythmia) or complete cardiac arrest. The danger is increased when inhalants are taken with other depressants, such as alcohol or sleeping pills.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Inhalant Abuse?

Repeated use increases tolerance to the drugs and larger doses are needed to achieve the same "high." Heavy doses increase the risk of permanent brain damage, with effects such as poor memory, extreme mood swings, tremors, and seizures. Heavy, continuous use also increases the risk of heart arrhythmia and respiratory failure.

Nitrite inhalants tend to raise the pressure of the fluid within the eyes. The raised pressure may eventually lead to glaucoma and blindness. Regular nitrite abuse may also cause severe headaches.

Solvents are the most dangerous of all inhalants. Chronic use causes long-term damage to the brain, the liver, and the kidneys. Solvents are poisons that break down living cells. Inhalants once absorbed into the body, they tend to concentrate in the liver and kidneys. Prolonged abuse of Inhalants may cause fatal damage to these organs, as well as irreversible effects on the nervous system and heart.

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