Many common products readily found in the home or workplace—such as aerosol sprays, cleaning fluids, glue, paint, paint thinner, nail polish remover, amyl nitrite and lighter fuel—contain volatile substances that have mind-altering properties when inhaled. They are especially but not exclusively abused by young children and adolescents and are the only class of substance abused more by younger rather than older teens.
Abusers of inhalants breathe them in through the nose or mouth in a variety of ways, known as “huffing.” They may sniff or snort fumes from a container or dispenser, such as a glue bottle or a marking pen, spray aerosols directly into their nose or mouth or place a chemical-soaked rag in their mouth. Abusers may also inhale fumes from a balloon or a plastic or paper bag. Although the high produced by inhalants usually lasts just a few minutes, abusers often try to prolong it by continuing to inhale repeatedly over several hours.
People tend to abuse different inhalant products at different ages. New users ages 12 to 15 most commonly abuse glue, shoe polish, spray paints, gasoline and lighter fluid. New users ages 16–17 most commonly abuse nitrous oxide or “whippets.” Adults most commonly abuse a class of inhalants known as nitrites, such as amyl nitrites or “poppers.”
Inhalants affect the brain. When substances or fumes are inhaled through the nose or mouth, they can cause permanent physical and mental damage. They starve the body of oxygen and force the heart to beat irregularly and more rapidly. People who use inhalants can lose their sense of smell, suffer nausea and nosebleeds and may develop liver, lung and kidney problems. Continued use can lead to reduced muscle mass, tone and strength. Inhalants can make people unable to walk, talk and think normally. Much of the damage is caused to the brain tissue when the toxic fumes are sniffed straight into the sinus.
Lethal effects of inhalants
In addition to the above, inhalants can kill a person by heart attack or suffocation as the inhaled fumes take the place of oxygen in the lungs and central nervous system. Someone on inhalants may also suddenly react with extreme violence.
Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly causeheart 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 like painting or cleaning, it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.
Nitrites are a special class of inhalants that are abused to enhance sexual pleasure and performance. They can be associated with unsafe sexual practices that increase the risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
The compassionate addiction specialists at recoveryas.com are trained to help you or a loved one conquer the abuse of any substance, including inhalants, prescription drugs, opiates and/or alcohol. Call toll free today to 1 (877) 968-6283 to start the process. You will never be charged for our services.