Inhalants are products that are readily available in the home or workplace. Everyday products such as spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids, contain volatile substances that have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties when inhaled. People do not typically think of these items as drugs because they were never intended for that purpose. Those who abuse inhalants are usually children and young adolescents. In fact, this is the only class of substance more abused by younger than by older teens. Inhalants are breathed in through the nose or mouth in a variety of ways known as huffing. Ingestion methods can be in the form of sniffing fumes from a glue bottle or marker; spraying aerosols, such as paint, directly into the nose or mouth; or placing a chemical-soaked rag inside the mouth. Abusers may also inhale fumes from a balloon or a bag. Although the high produced by inhalants usually lasts just a few minutes, abusers often try to prolong it by continuing to inhale over a period of several hours.
Signs & Symptoms
Inhalants depress the central nervous system in a manner similar to alcohol. With repeated inhalations, many users feel less inhibited. Some may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache. Although it is not very common, addiction to inhalants can occur with repeated abuse. Signs of inhalant use include:
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Hallucinations and delusions
A Success Story
“I grew up with drugs and alcohol always around. By fifth grade, I was addicted to weed and cigarettes and huffing paint and gas. By the time I was 12 I was smoking cocaine.
“During a clean time, I met my husband; we married and had two sons. Life was good until someone at my husband’s work sold him cocaine. We were just going to try it once, but I wanted to lose weight and the cocaine made it easy, and soon we were full-blown crackheads.
“Eventually we both entered separate Adult & Teen Challenge centers. The year seemed so long, but we were determined to finish the program and get our lives and our boys back.
“God saved our lives and Adult & Teen Challenge has given our sons a future without drugs!”
Effects of Use
Chemicals found in various inhaled products may produce short-term effects, such as nausea or vomiting, as well as more serious long-term consequences. These may include liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, or bone marrow damage. Effects may also include loss of coordination and limb spasms due to damaged myelin—a protective sheathing around nerve fibers that helps nerves to transmit messages in the brain and peripheral nervous system. Inhalants can also cause brain damage by cutting off oxygen flow to the brain.
Inhalants can even be lethal. Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly cause heart failure within minutes. This syndrome, known as Sudden Sniffing Death, can result from a single session of inhalant use by an otherwise healthy young person. High concentrations of inhalants may also cause death from suffocation, especially when inhaled from a paper or plastic bag, or in a closed area. Even when using aerosols or volatile products for their legitimate purposes, it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.
Understanding adolescents and inhalants
- In 2015, about 684,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used inhalants in the past year.
- Adolescents were more likely than adults aged 18 or older to have used inhalants in the past year to get high (2.7 vs. 0.4 percent).
- Female adolescents were more likely than male adolescents to have used inhalants in the past month (3.2 vs. 2.3 percent).
- In 2015, more than half of adolescents who used inhalants in the past year (59.0 percent) had used 1 to 11 days in the past year; about 1 in 5 (19.3 percent) had used 12 to 49 days.
- The types of inhalants adolescents used to get high varied. Felt-tip pens/markers, or magic markers were the most commonly identified types of inhalants adolescents used to get high in 2015.
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Why do adolescents choose inhalants?
Inhalants are highly accessible, cheap, and easy to hide; they are also addictive and deadly. Inhalants are particularly appealing to adolescents for many reasons; they are legal, low cost, and easy to acquire. In addition, inhalants can give users a fast but short-term high, which makes it easy for adolescents to use inhalants and conceal their use. Using inhalants is also associated with many negative outcomes. Adolescents who engage in inhalant use are at an increased risk of delinquency, depression, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol use. Inhalants also have the special risk of being deadly any time they are used—even the first time.
for the full article visit SAMHSA