Testing

Inhalant presence can be detected in some blood work. In order to verify use, a complete blood count with measures for electrolyte, phosphorous and calcium levels must be done. Along with this, an acid-base assessment, liver and kidney screens, and heart muscle/enzyme testing must be performed.

Other tests that give indication of damage done and for presence of evidence is performing specific tests on blood samples sealed with heparin and processed by gas chromaphotography, which can detect the presence of solvents.

Testing for use of other drugs is performed to rule out their presence in the user. If there is no evidence of other drugs and the user is experiencing distress, it is wise to test for heart arrhythmias and possible brain damage if the user is experiencing trauma or hallucinations/delusions.

Therapists or physicians may screen for use of inhalants with a written test prepared to measure history of use and current use. This test is called the Volatile Solvent Screening Inventory (VSSI) and Comprehensive Solvent Assessment Interview (CSAI). These tests can be completed in 30-90 minutes and can provide a framework of mental conditions, physical conditions, suicidal thoughts (found higher in inhalant users), and behavioral problems, along with amount and frequency of use. This test is free online and could become a valuable tool for those working with a fragile population.

Limitations of Drug Tests for Inhalants

Results for tests can be inconclusive, due to the wide range of products used for inhalation. There is no specific set of tests that will give proof of use. However, there are signs to watch for, distinctive to inhalant use/abuse. Some of these are:

The strong smell of chemicals on the hands, face, clothing and hair of the user, burns or blisters around the face where the baggie or rag or container is held up to the face, burns or blisters in the nasal passages or mouth and throat of the user, muscle twitching and tics that are repetitive and long-lasting to permanent (due to neurological damage), stained fingers and fingernails (of paint users), residue on clothing or hands and face from glues or lacquer products.

Legalities of Drug Tests for Inhalants

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Drug testing laws are geared toward adults. Therefore, parents need to be present or have signed consents for minors to be tested in most circumstances. Since inhalants are considered to be a problem for those in elementary, middle and high school settings, laws vary from state to state on how testing may occur.

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