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Are Inhalants Addictive

Inhalants can come in many forms, and abuse can lead to addiction. Learn more about inhalants addiction here.

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants are any substance that produces a chemical vapor that can be inhaled for effects on the body. While inhalants are most often thought of in association with illicit drug use, they can be prescribed as well. For instance, albuterol, a medicine for asthma, is an inhalant. However, some inhalants do produce mind-altering or euphoric qualities, which can ultimately lead to inhalant abuse. 1

What is Inhalants Abuse?

Inhalant abuse occurs any time a prescription inhalant is abused or any time a substance is inhaled without proper prescription. Not all inhalants are medications, such as gasoline, but they can produce addictive qualities that encourage abuse. Abusing these inhalants can be extremely dangerous and lead to numerous potentially dangerous side effects on both the mind and body.

Read on in the following article to learn more about the different types of inhalants and how to overcome an addiction to these substances.

Categories of Inhalants

 Inhalants Addiction

Inhalants are not a one size fits all type of substance. Instead, there are several different categories of inhalants, each one different based on its form and where it is typically found.

Volatile Solvents 

Volatile solvents are liquids that turn into vapor at room temperature, much like how water turns into steam at its boiling point. This type of inhalant is relatively inexpensive and easy to access, as it’s common in many households, including

  • Paint thinners
  • Paint removers
  • Dry-cleaning supplies
  • Glue
  • Rubber cement
  • White correction fluid
  • Markers


Aerosols are spray bottles, such as hair spray. They contain chemical ingredients like propellants and solvents and can include items like

  • Spray paint
  • Hair spray
  • Spray deodorant
  • Pan spray
  • Fabric sprays


Gases are one of the more diverse forms of inhalants. At the same time, they can include medical gases, such as nitrous oxide and anesthetics. However, they can also come in some spray bottles and exhaust fumes. There’s even a third form of gases, which are the actual gases you may first think of. This includes propane and butane from common household items.


Nitrites are a unique form of inhalant. They work to dilate blood vessels, relax the muscles, and increase sexual feelings. They're also more uncommon than other inhalants, only being found in certain specialized surface cleaners.

They were used as medicine for heart conditions in the past, though this purpose is seen less with more modern cardiovascular medications. 2

Signs of Inhalant Addiction

Because of their ability to impact the central nervous system and other parts of the body, inhalants can be addictive. While the signs of inhalant addiction may be more subtle than other addictive substances, you may still be able to recognize them – especially when multiple are present. 3

Some of the signs of inhalant addiction can include

  • A runny nose
  • An unusual smell of the breath
  • Stains from paint or oil on the clothes or the face
  • The appearance of being drunk
  • Sores in or around the mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increase in anxiety

Effects of Inhalant Abuse

Because inhalants are meant to be used in a certain way — or not at all for some types of inhalants — abuse can lead to dangerous side effects. This is because inhalants can affect the central nervous system, brain, muscles, and cardiovascular system. Chronic abuse isn’t necessary for side effects to occur. A single experience of abuse can cause side effects, which may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Headaches

How Are Inhalants Abused?

Inhalants are abused in only one way: inhalation. This means breathing in the fumes of chemicals that you’re not supposed to. The dangers of inhalants, such as paint thinners, are why protective gear and ventilation are often necessary when using possible inhalants for their proper use.

Who Abuses Inhalants?

Inhalant abuse and inhalant addiction can happen to anyone. Even a single experience of abuse can cause addiction. However, while anyone can abuse inhalants, there are certain trends in certain demographics. For instance, most people who abuse inhalants or suffer from inhalant addiction are under the age of 25. 4

Inhalant abuse is also associated with common addiction risk factors, such as poverty or childhood trauma. 5

How is Inhalant Abuse Diagnosed?

Inhalant abuse is diagnosed by either directly observing an individual abusing an inhalant or by witnessing most, if not all, of the signs of inhalant abuse. Traditional blood and urine tests cannot detect the presence of chemical inhalants, which can make diagnosis more complex than other substance use disorders.

Can a Person Overdose on Inhalants?

Just like when any substance is abused, a person can overdose on inhalants after a single use. As many as 200 people die each year from inhalant overdoses, which are considered a medical emergency. 6

Withdrawal from Inhalants

Because of the severe side effects and risk of overdose, it’s important to seek recovery from inhalant addiction as soon as possible. However, like with any substance that interacts with the central nervous system and body, inhalant detox presents the chance of withdrawal. Withdrawal syndrome is a series of uncomfortable or even distressing symptoms that occur as the body attempts to rebalance itself.

Symptoms of Inhalant Withdrawal

Symptoms of withdrawal from inhalants may include:

  • Rapid pulse
  • Panic, anxiety, and mood swings
  • Sweating
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Physical and emotional agitation
  • Hallucinations

Treatments Are Available for Those Addicted to Inhalants at Genesis Recovery

 Inhalants Addiction

Inhalant addiction can do more than pose a significant health risk: it can also damage your relationship with yourself and loved ones. Inhalant addiction can completely take over a person’s life – negatively influencing important life factors such as finances, career, and autonomy.

However, while inhalant addiction can be dangerous and difficult to navigate, you don’t need to be alone in your journey to recovery and restoring the balance within yourself and with those around in your life.  

Genesis Recovery: An Opportunity for Healing

At Genesis Recovery, you will find a variety of therapies and multi-faceted approaches. This includes cognitive behavior therapy, leading psychotherapy, as well as motivational interventions, family counseling, activity and engagement programs, and even support groups and traditional 12-Step programs. We will equip you with the personalized tools necessary for long term sobriety. Such a variety of treatment options always for individualized care, with a 24-hour staff prepared to provide effective, compassionate care during your recovery from inhalant abuse.


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