Inhalants are chemical vapors that have psychoactive effects. Younger children and teens tend to abuse inhalants in part because they are available and inexpensive. Inhalant abuse, like huffing, is something a person does intentionally to get high and may have dangerous consequences.
Each classification of inhalant has its own slang or street names according to the NIDA. This includes ‘poppers,’ ‘bold,’ rush,’ and ‘laughing gas.’ Inhalants are used by people who want to experience a high but these highly volatile substances can have a lasting impact on a person’s health.
Inhalants are chemical vapors found in household products that may contain volatile solvents or aerosols. Inhalants fall into four major categories:
- Volatile solvents: industrial, household, art, or office supply solvents. They include paint thinners, removers, degreasers, correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners.
- Aerosols: household propellants and associated solvents in items like spray paints, hair, or other sprays including fabric sprays, computer cleaning supplies, and vegetable oil sprays.
- Gases: used in household or commercial products, including butane lighters and propane tanks, medical anesthetic gases, chloroform, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
- Nitrites: volatiles including chemicals like cyclohexyl, butyl, and amyl nitrites. Known as ‘poppers,’ Amyl nitrite is used in some medical procedures. They are often sold in small brown bottles labeled as ‘video head cleaner,’ etc.
Effects of Inhalants
Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. Nearly all solvents and gases produce anesthesia, a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. Short term hazards include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Heart failure
- Injuries to mouth, throat, or lungs
- High-risk of death
Long term risks include brain damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, vision damage, limb spasms, blackouts, cognitive impairment, immune system damage, and high-risk of death.
High concentrations may cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and the central nervous system so a person stops breathing. Inhaling from a bag in a closed area increases risk of suffocation. Heavy users may become addicted to inhalants and may suffer cognitive impairment or other dysfunctions making it hard. People develop a tolerance for inhalants over time which means it takes more time to experience the ‘high.’
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