Inhalant FAQ

What types of substances are used for inhalants?

Many types of chemical products are used. A short list should include the most popular and often-abused. These are gasoline, paint thinner, spray paints, lacquer and lacquer thinner, turpentine, hair spray, canned whipped cream, shoe polish, degreasers, room freshener, spray deodorant, spray starch, asthmas inhalers and nasal sprays, analgesic sprays, spot removers, correction fluid, permanent markers, Freon gas, lighter fluid, BBQ grill igniter fluid, rubber cement and airplane glue, nail polish remover, acetone, dry cleaning fluids, pure toluene, computer keyboard cleaner, carburetor cleaner, engine cleaner, engine performance enhancers, vegetable cooking spray, propane, butane, nitrous oxide, helium, ether, chloroform, and other products that are common household agents for cleaning, cooking, automotive repair and maintenance, and general purpose products.

How are inhalants used?

Most inhalants are sprayed or placed into plastic bags and held over the mouth and nose while being inhaled. Some users will inhale directly from an open container with certain chemicals, such as gasoline. Others may douse a rag with the chemicals and hold them over their face.

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What kind of high can a person get from inhalants?

Most of the time, the first hit will induce sensations similar to drinking alcohol, but is even more fast-acting. Users experience giddiness, sometimes becoming dizziness. Other whiffing effects are loss of balance motor coordination. Users report the high as being fun at first and then turning nasty as use increases. The effects wear off very quickly, so most users will continue to take more hits to keep the high going. The tendency is to try to increase doses to get a longer-lasting high, which doesn’t work. The effects of more of the drug will begin to manifest in side effects that are less pleasant; such as nausea and vomiting, coughing, sometimes choking and headaches.

Are inhalants considered to be drugs?

There is no drug classification for inhalant substances in the United States. They are primarily household products that have usefulness for purposes of cleaning, lubrication, and other purposes, depending on the chemical.

What is so dangerous about inhalants?

The high risk with inhalants is primarily the fact that they are toxic substances. Ingestion of any of them would be poisonous and deadly for anyone. Inhaling the toxic fumes of these substances is potentially fatal.

How do inhalants kill?

The instant effects that users experience can kill just as suddenly. The ways that users die from inhalant use are from cardiac arrest when heart rate increases and suddenly stops; from passing out or going unconscious and choking on vomit; or from sudden oxygen depletion to the lungs when chemicals rob oxygen from the blood of the user. Stroke risks are high, as are the risks for permanent cognitive damage to the brain, cancer from the carcinogens contained in some of the chemicals being inhaled, permanent psychosis, muscle damage, as well as burns and permanent scarring of throat, nasal, mouth and lung tissue.

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How can I tell if someone is using inhalants?

The user may have an odor on their clothing, hair or hands of chemicals. They may also have burns/blisters around their mouth and nose. Most long-time inhalant users have strong chemical odors in their sweat and noticeable bad breath. Behaviors may be glazed eyes, runny nose or nosebleeds, unsteady and uncoordinated movements, difficulty in concentration and generally intoxicated appearance.

What do I do if my friend is using inhalants?

If you find them when using, do not try to stop them. A startle reaction may cause the person to experience an increase in heart rate that could be fatal. Wait until they finish with what they are doing and allow them to come down from the hit. Talk to them and attempt to steer them toward help. Inhalant treatment is available and can assist in stopping if they have become addicted. Education is important for understanding why inhalants are a poor choice.

How can I learn more about the chemicals that are being inhaled and their toxic effects?

That information is available on Poison Control Center help lines. These are 24-hour hot lines that help those who believe they may have ingested a poisonous substance. Any Local Center can be reached by calling 844-343-4915.

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