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Are There Treatment Programs for Inhalant Abuse?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that 9.8 percent of adults ages 18-25 make up the category of people who abuse inhalants. Other studies show 10th-graders (6.1 percent) commonly experiment with inhalants as well. By the time students enter the eighth grade, it is estimated that 1 in 5 of their classmates will have already experimented with deadly inhalants. So, you may be asking, what exactly are inhalants?

Inhalants can be solvents to aerosols, and gases to nitrates and anywhere in between. There are hundreds of different types of inhalants, and for as long as history has been documented, there has been evidence of inhalant abuse. This type of abuse dates back to Babylonian times. Inhalants became popular in the United States during the Prohibition era as a replacement for alcohol. Since there were no other outlets at that time, inhalants were the only option to escape reality.

Inhalants are defined as volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering effect. They are most commonly found in household, industrial, and medical products. Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. They are found in several inexpensive and readily available products that are used at home or for industrial purposes. These can include paint thinners, gasoline, dry-cleaning fluids, glues, and felt tip markers.

Aerosols are sprays that contain propellants and solvents. These include spray paints, deodorant, vegetable oil sprays for cooking, hair sprays, or fabric protector sprays. Gases such as nitrous oxide are often sought out as well as chloroform, and halothane. Finally, there is something called nitrites which work by dilating blood vessels and relaxing muscles. Other inhalants are most often used to alter the mood, but nitrites which are also known as poppers are used primarily as sexual enhancers. Nitrites were also used in the past for heart pain.

Inhalant users will abuse different substances, but the effects produced will vary from one person to another. With that said, there are still some users who will go out of their way to obtain a specific inhalant. This can be dependent on certain parts of the country.

Effects of Inhalant Abuse


Since most of the inhalants listed above except for nitrites are central nervous system depressants (CNS), they work in a fashion similar to alcohol. These drugs are abused for their intoxicating effects and by inhaling them straight into the bloodstream causing an almost instant effect. The short-term effects can be experienced within seconds of inhaling.

The most common symptoms of inhalant intoxication are:

  • Euphoria
  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

It’s important to note that different inhalants will produce different effects. Chemicals in aerosol sprays can cause belligerence, confusion, apathy, and impaired judgment, whereas nitrites will increase heart rate while giving a rush of excitement. Inhalant intoxication lasts on average several minutes which makes it dangerous for abusers. This, in turn, requires them to continually take more of the drug which can result in a loss of consciousness. 

The most significant short-term effect is sudden death. Due to the high concentration of chemicals, using inhalants can cause irregular heartbeats which lead to heart failure minutes after inhalation. This is phrased as “sudden sniffing death syndrome.” This can happen to an otherwise healthy person. Sudden death can induce suffocation, seizures, and choking.


The chemicals that are used in all of these products are toxic. The products were never intended to be consumed by human beings, and long-term inhalant abuse can have irreversible effects on the brain and central nervous system. Other organs that can be damaged are the heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver. Studies have shown that damage caused to the body from inhalants is similar to multiple sclerosis, and have damage ranging from cognitive processing, movement, vision, and hearing. These can be mild or severe, but this makes it more important to seek treatment immediately if you’re using inhalants.

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Signs of Inhalant Abuse

For all that has been mentioned above, using inhalants should be considered playing a deadly game of Russian roulette. For this reason, identifying the use of inhalants can be the reason someone has their life saved. Due to the irreversible damage caused by inhalant abuse, the signs must be familiar for someone who may suspect a loved one of using inhalants.

Signs of inhalant abuse go as follows:

  • Unusual chemical odor on breath or clothing
  • Slurred speech
  • Household chemicals stained on face or clothes
  • Intoxication
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Lack of coordination

If someone you know has displayed these signs, it could indicate that treatment is necessary to treat inhalant addiction. Inhalant addiction is a less commonly sought out type of treatment, and because of this, it requires specialized care.

What Treatment Programs Are for Inhalant Abuse?

Generic substance abuse treatment programs are not equipped to deal with the intensity or complexity of problems that an inhalant abuser will show. Chronically abusing inhalants causes various psychological and social issues. The damage from neurotoxic chemicals from inhalants is so severe that experts must diagnose a chronic inhalant abuser to have a chemical dependence and mental illness before an assessment takes place. As a result, standard approaches and techniques used in treatment will be useful for alcohol and other drugs, but  may not be beneficial for inhalants.

When inhalant abuse is suspected, a thorough medical examination is necessary. During this exam, all of the medical issues must be addressed. This can begin with central nervous system damage, kidney damage, liver damage, lead poisoning, possible cardiac arrhythmia, and lung damage. One of the most challenging portions of inhalant treatment is understanding that the chemicals are stored in the fatty tissues of the body. Due to this piece of information, it’s necessary to express patience to the person in recovery that residual effects are going to persist for quite some time. These effects can take shape in the dullness of intellectual functioning. The detoxification period for inhalants will be significantly longer than the average drug or alcohol detox. This will last several weeks as opposed to days.

There will be neurological impairment present with an inhalant abuser. It is difficult to decide whether these problems are a direct result of using or if it predates the time they began using. These difficulties can interfere with treatment, and the treatment center must conduct a thorough examination or school records or neurological testing the client has been through. It’s still unknown if the damage is irreversible, but continued use will only compound the problem. If you or a loved one has an inhalant addiction, treatment is a must to save them from a treacherous road of harming themselves. Fortunately, Ocean Breeze Recover offers everything you need for inhalant addiction.

Find Healing At Ocean Breeze Recovery

Inhalant addiction is a serious disease that can be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, Ocean Breeze Recovery has the tools to help rebuild the life of someone trapped in inhalant addiction. We are an addiction rehab center based in Pompano Beach, South Florida, that is dedicated to healing broken minds, bodies, and spirits. 

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 even more important.Ocean Breeze provides customized treatment that offers a better shot at lasting recovery rather than self-treatment. That is not a feasible option, and if you are ready to gain back the traction in your life, it’s important to take the first step. Call one of our addiction specialists at 855-960-5341 or contact us online to further discuss your options. We are ready to give you the opportunity for a better life so that you can begin healing from some of the damages from huffing.


NIDA. (n.d.). Inhalants. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What are inhalants? Retrieved from

Foundation For A Drug-Free Worlsd. (n.d.) INHALANTS’ EFFECTS. Retrieved from

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

Mayo Clinic. (2020, January 3) Inhalant use: Is your child at risk? What are the warning signs of inhalant use? Retrieved from

NIDA. (2018, January 17). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Retrieved from

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