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How Dangerous Is Huffing Inhalants?

The chemicals that are found in aerosol sprays, solvents, and gases can produce various effects during or shortly after use. Inhalants are volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to produce psychoactive or mind-altering effects. While many materials can be inhaled, inhalants describe a variety of substances that have the shared characteristic of being taken by any route other than inhalation. 

The definition surrounds a broad range of chemicals that have different pharmacological effects and are found in hundreds of everyday products. The products can range from simple household products like whipped cream to paint thinner.

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 308,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used inhalants for the first time.It is an unfortunate reality, but inhalants are the easiest drugs children can obtain. While a drug like alcohol is legal, it still requires being 21 years of age to purchase. This can pose a considerable obstacle to buying for someone 18 or under but still is not impossible. In some cities where drugs like marijuana are harder to find, some children will turn to inhalants because they can buy whipped cream from the grocery store and inhale the gas.

A survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) consistently reports that 8th- through 10th-grade students and 12th-graders consistently rank highest for inhalant abuse. While inhalant abuse has declined since it peaked in the 1990s, it is still prevalent in our society with children who are ages 12 to 17, and peaks at age 14. Among eighth-grade females, 8.6 percent reported using inhalants whereas only 5.5 percent of 8th-grade males used the drugs. 

Kids from urban and rural settings both abuse inhalants, and studies have shown that adverse socioeconomic conditions, a history of childhood abuse, poor grades, and school drop out are associated with inhalant abuse.

Inhalant abuse is considered extremely dangerous. If you suspect that someone you love is abusing the drugs, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the types and warning signs that are attributed to use. Learning the signs and detecting someone in the earlier stages of a substance use disorder can better equip you to address the problem. In the following sections, we will discuss the types of inhalants and what to look out for when someone is abusing inhalants.

Types of Solvents

There are many different types of solvents and inhalants that someone can abuse. These can range from people who inhale glue to someone who inhales nitrous from a can of whipped cream. Below, we will discuss the different solvents.

Volatile Solvents

Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature and are found in a multitude of inexpensive, readily available products used for common household and industrial purposes. Some of the products that are considered volatile solvents are paint thinners and removers, dry-cleaning fluids, degreasers, gasoline, glues, correction fluids, and felt tip markers. These are among the most commonly abused products.


Aerosols are sprays that contain propellants and solvents. The products that include aerosols are spray paints, deodorants, hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays used to cook, and fabric protector sprays.


Gases are medical anesthetics used in household or commercial products. Some products that contain gases include chloroform, nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas), and halothane. Nitrous oxide is among the most widely abused gases and can be found in whipped cream canisters, and products that boost octane levels in race cars. There are other commercial products containing vapors that can be inhaled including butane lights, propane tanks, and refrigerants.


Nitrites are considered a “special class” of inhalants; reason being is that they act directly on the central nervous system (CNS). Nitrites dilate blood vessels and relax muscles while other inhalants are used to alter moods. Nitrites are used mainly as sexual enhancements. The most common nitrites are called “poppers,” and are used in some diagnostic procedures. It was initially prescribed to treat patients for pain in their heart. Today, nitrites are entirely banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Unfortunately, they can still be found in products such as video head cleaners, room odorizers, or liquid aromas.

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Effects of Inhalant Abuse


The chemicals in these drugs can produce various effects that vary among users during or shortly after using. Some of the effects related to inhalant intoxication can include:

  • Belligerence
  • Apathy
  • Impaired judgment
  • Impaired functioning in work or social situations
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred Speech
  • Lethargy
  • Depressed reflexes

Inhaling these drugs can produce dangerous and life-threatening outcomes. These drugs depress the nervous system and slow down breathing. Other dangers they present is that the user can become so impaired that they lose consciousness, which can result in falls that can cause severe harm or death.


Long-term effects from using inhalants can range from moderate to severe depending on how long someone used the drugs for. Long-term users of inhalants have reported these effects:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain
  • Memory impairment, diminished intelligence
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Deaths from heart failure

There have been many problems attributed to long-term use of inhalants. If you or someone you love is abusing inhalants, the most significant decision you can make is to reach out for help. Inhalant abuse requires detox because the chemicals soak into the fats of your body, making detox lasting weeks or sometimes months. It is vital to get help immediately to reduce the prominence of long-term damage.

How to Tell If Someone Is Abusing Inhalants?

Early identification and intervention is the best way to stop inhalant abuse before it causes serious health concerns. As with any disease, early detection can be the difference between life or death. Huffing these drugs is extremely dangerous and can affect many different parts of the body. If you are a parent or someone concerned about their friends or family abusing inhalants, you must be aware of these signs:

  • Chemical odors on breath or clothing
  • Slurred speech
  • Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes
  • Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers, and chemical-soaked rags or clothing
  • Drunk or disoriented appearance
  • Nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Inattentiveness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Depression

Long-term inhalant abuse can also destroy something called myelin, which is a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects nerve fibers. Myelin helps carry messages quickly and efficiently, but its breakdown can lead to muscle spasms and tremors. There are other problems such as permanent difficulty with necessary actions like walking, bending, and talking. If you or a loved one is dealing with the struggles of addiction, there is help available today. 

Get Help Today for Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant addiction is a serious disease that not only can be fatal but can have lasting consequences if you survive. Fortunately, Ocean Breeze Recovery has the tools to help rebuild the life of someone struggling from inhalant addiction. We are an addiction rehab center based in Pompano Beach, South Florida, that is dedicated to healing anyone who needs help.

Inhalant addiction can cause permanent damage, and when you’ve become addicted, your daily routine will involve obtaining more inhalants. When drugs run out, so will the ability to function normally. This makes choosing the right treatment center imperative.Ocean Breeze provides customized treatment that offers a better shot at lasting recovery. If you are ready to gain back the traction in your life, it’s important to take the first step. While it is a big step and may seem scary, we are here to catch you. Call one of our addiction specialists at 855-960-5341 or contact us online to discuss your options further. We are ready to give you the opportunity for a better life so that you can begin the healing process.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What are the short- and long-term effects of inhalant use? Retrieved from

Mayo Clinic. (2020, January 3) Tween and teen health. Inhalant use: Is your child at risk? Retrieved from

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19‑5068, NSDUH Series H‑54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration from

National Capitol Poison Control Center. (n.d.) Inhalant Abuse – New Study Findings. Soloway, R. RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita. Retrieved from

NIDA. (2012, July 1). Inhalants. Retrieved from from

NIDA. (2017, February 16). Inhalants. What are the other health effects of inhalants? Retrieved from

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