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
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.
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 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
Aerosols are spray bottles, such as hair spray. They contain chemical ingredients like propellants and solvents and can include items like
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
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
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:
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.
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
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.
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
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 withdrawal from inhalants may include:
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.
At Genesis Recovery, you will find a variety of therapies and faith-based 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.