15 May 2013

At Suncoast Rehabilitation Center, we have helped many people get off of all types of drugs.  One drug type we wanted to discuss in this article is referred to generally as “inhalants.”  The drugs of this category often get lumped together because they are taken in the same way – but different inhalants can have different effects.

Types of Inhalants:

  • Liquids: There are several types of liquids that can vaporize at room temperature.  The vapor of these liquids are inhaled in an activity called “huffing.” Some of the hundreds of household liquids that can be huffed are paint thinner, degreaser,
    Huffing hairspray
    glue, gasoline, correctional fluid, and felt-tipped marker fluid.
  • Sprays:  Sprays like cooking spray, vegetable oil, deodorant, hair spray, and spray paint are all aerosolized liquids that can be inhaled for a high.
  • Gases: Medical anesthetics, butane lighters, propane tanks, refrigerants, and (most famously) whipped cream dispensers all have inhalant gases within them.
  • Nitrites: A nitrite is a chemical compound found in food preservatives, curing meat, room deodorizers and video head cleaners.  When used as an inhalant, nitrites act directly on the central nervous system.  They are mainly used as a sexual enhancer – particularly by men.

Since inhalants are often simple household chemicals, it’s impossible to list every single thing that a person could inhale to attain a high.  There are street names connected to inhalants or “huffing.”  Here are just a few: Whippets, Shoot the Breeze, Nitrous, Laughing Gas, Huff, Heart-on, poppers, Air Blast, Snappers, Highball, Hippie Crack, Poor Man’s Pot, Snotballs, Whiteout, and more.

Why are Inhalants Abused?

Generally, when one looks at whipped cream or a bottle of glue, one doesn’t consider inhaling the fumes contained within the bottle to see if it will get them high.  Most people buy whipped cream to use on pies.  Most people buy glue to use in craft or home improvement projects.  So, why would someone abuse inhalants? To discover this, we must take a look at past uses of inhalants.

History of Inhalants

The practice of inhaling the fumes from specially designed incense or oils in order to alter a state of consciousness dates back to ancient Egypt and Babylon.  This was usually done as part of a fortune-telling enterprise or religious experience.  However, in the late 1700s, British scientist Sir Humphry Davy popularized nitrous oxide as “laughing gas” and held parties using the drug.  Later on – in the mid 1800s, nitrous oxide was utilized in medicine as an anesthetic.

Inhalant abuse remained relatively uncommon until well into the last half of the 20th century. Between the time of Davy and the recent rise in inhalant abuse, there were sporadic reports of people using ether, chloroform and gasoline fumes to get high. And, while this did occur, was not until the late 1900s that this abuse was recognized as a growing problem. Today, inhalant use isn’t just a problem in the US.  Parts of Africa, Mexico, South Asia, Eastern Europe and other places worldwide have seen significant abuse of inhalants.

Inhalant Effects

High and confused

Abusers of inhalants state that the effect is fast and intoxicating.   Often, they feel as if they have been drinking heavily.  Some inhalants can make a person start to hallucinate.  Other effects of inhalants include:

  • Slurred speech, dizziness, and lack of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Hostility
  • Apathy
  • Impaired judgment
  • Unconsciousness
  • Headaches
  • Rashes
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeats
  • Permanent memory loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Addiction
  • Heart attacks which can lead to death
  • Serious heart, liver, kidney, lung, and brain damage
  • Death by suffocation

Inhalants can cause terrible long-term physical damage.  For example, sniffing glue or paint thinner can cause kidney problems.  Sniffing solvents like toluene causes liver damage.  Most of these chemicals are extremely harsh and are not meant for human consumption.  Sniffing them can lead to such severe lung damage caused by the chemical burning the lungs, which can cause death by suffocation.

Inhalants are often considered a gateway drug, but they are also addictive as well as dangerous and potentially life-threatening.  If you are or someone you know is addicted to inhalants, contact us today at (877) 850-7355.  We have an effective, drug-free program that can rid a person of inhalant addiction, and help them regain a drug-free life.

Refs: DrugFreeWorld.org, Interviews, KidsHealth.org, DrugAbuse.gov