Inhalants, abused by inhaling vapors, produce certain psychoactive or mind-altering effects. Many products readily found in the home or workplace, such as spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids, contain volatile substances that have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties when inhaled.
Some of the common terms used for inhalant abuse are huffing, sniffing, dusting or bagging. The terms have been derived from the numerous ways in which these substances can be abused. For instance, users may sniff or snort fumes of inhalants directly from a container or dispenser, use some sort of cloth soaked with the inhalant and can also sniff or inhale substances sprayed or deposited inside a plastic or paper bag.
Inhalant use is particularly prevalent among young children and adolescents. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 600,000 people aged 12 or older were current users of inhalants in 2016. It was also reported that the drug was used by about 149,000 adolescents, 121,000 young adults, and 329,000 adults aged 26 or older.
Easy availability of these common items make young people assume that inhaling them does not constitute substance use. However, this is a misunderstanding that can have serious and even fatal consequences. Therefore, it is important for those abusing inhalants to seek help and find treatment for inhalant abuse at a rehab center.
Symptoms of inhalant abuse
Inhalants work by slowing down the brain activity, creating a feeling of intoxication, similar to that produced by alcohol. Users may get a feeling of euphoria accompanied by slurred speech, a loss of coordination and dizziness. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the high produced by inhalants usually lasts for just a few minutes, but abusers often try to prolong the effect by continuing to inhale it repeatedly over several hours. This can have extremely harmful and even fatal consequences like cardiac arrest and asphyxiation. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), “sudden sniffing death” can result from a single session of inhalant use by an otherwise healthy young person.
Some of the common signs that signify inhalant abuse are:
- Impaired judgment
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Flushness of skin
- Symptoms resulting in death
Inhalant use can lead to the abuse of other drugs. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms so that individuals can get the necessary inhalant treatment to prevent a spiral into ever increasing levels of addiction. The DEA suggests that parents should look for the following warning signs:
- Paint or stains on body or clothing
- Spots or sores around the mouth
- Red or runny eyes or nose
- Chemical breath odor drunk
- Loss of appetite