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Inhalant Abuse Symptoms, Side Effects, and Addiction Treatment

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants are substances that people inhale to try and get intoxicated. Just one use can be very dangerous and can present severe health problems.1 Substances like solvents and aerosols can be volatile. It’s more common for young people to misuse inhalants. However, they are misused by many different people. Inhalants can include:1

  • Glue.
  • Nail polish remover.
  • Whipped cream canisters.
  • Spray paints.
  • Hair spray.

People who are misusing inhalants may feel the need to seek help in an inhalant addiction treatment program or another type of support.

Types of Inhalants

Inhalants include any number of household products that, when the vapor is inhaled, can produce mind-altering and psychoactive effects:2

  • Aerosols include products like spray paint and fabric protector sprays.2
  • Solvents vaporize at room temperature and produce a very short high—often lasting just minutes. As a result, people tend to inhale, wait for a couple minutes, and inhale again, leading to a sustained high. They include items like paint thinner and felt-tip markers.2
  • Gases like nitrous oxide, popularly known as laughing gas, are often found in whipped cream as a propellant. Other gases are in refrigerants and butane lighters.2
  • Nitrites are used to relax muscles and enhance sexual desire, and they include amyl nitrite and isobutyl nitrite.2

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

Diagnosis of a substance use disorder can only be made by a medical practitioner. However, the following signs of inhalant use disorder may be helpful when deciding whether to seek help via an inhalant addiction treatment program or another type of support:3

  • The person uses inhalants in larger amounts or for longer than they had planned to.
  • The person wants to cut down on using inhalants but has a hard time doing so.
  • The person spends a lot of time getting the inhalant, using it, or recovering from its effects.
  • Cravings for more inhalants continue to occur.
  • The person fails to carry out important tasks related to home, school, or work because of their inhalant use and may give up activities that used to be important to them.
  • The person continues to use inhalants despite having social, interpersonal, physical, or psychological problems caused by inhalant use.
  • The person demonstrates more risk-taking behaviors related to inhalant use.
  • Tolerance to inhalants arises, meaning more is needed to achieve the same effect.

Other signs that a person may be misusing inhalants can include:2

  • The scent of chemicals on the person.
  • Stains from paint or other substances on the hands, body, and clothing.
  • Hidden containers.
  • Looking disoriented or intoxicated.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Nausea and loss of appetite.
  • Depression.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Irritability.

Long- and Short-Term Effects of Inhalant Abuse

The long-term effects of inhalant use can be severe. Brain damage is the primary effect because inhalants quickly penetrate the blood-brain barrier (a protective ‘shield’ around the brain). A person could also lose sensation and have severe nosebleeds.

As with many drugs, the long-term effects of inhalant use can include death. Sudden sniffing death can occur with just one use, leading to rapid heart rhythms and even heart failure within just minutes.4

Inhalant Statistics

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:5

  • More than 2.2 million Americans aged 12 years and older admitted to using inhalants in the previous 12 months.
  • An estimated 3.6% of 8th graders, 2.4% of 10th graders, and 1.8% of 12th graders had used inhalants in the previous 12 months.
  • It was reported that roughly 335,000 people aged 12 and older in the United States had an inhalant use disorder (inhalant addiction) in the previous 12 months.

Inhalant Addiction Treatment Types

If a person is found unconscious after using substances, call 9-1-1 immediately. After being medically stabilized, a person misusing inhalants may want to attend an inhalant addiction treatment program.

Treatment may consist of several different interventions, depending on the person’s unique situation. Treatment interventions can take place in both inpatient and outpatient facilities and at varying intensities.

Behavioral therapy is often used in addiction treatment to help a person understand why they took inhalants and the dangers of doing so. It will also aim to address any underlying causes of drug use, such as mental health conditions and interpersonal challenges.

After treatment, you may receive a relapse prevention program to help you transition back to daily life with proper support. You and your treatment team will work together to create a plan that serves your individual needs.

Find Inhalant Treatment Programs

Seeking help for inhalant addiction can be an important first phase in recovery from substance abuse. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S. and offer a variety of treatment types. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading treatment provider and has trusted rehab facilities across the country. If you’d like to learn more about inhalant addiction treatment with us, please contact AAC free at . You will speak with a caring admissions navigator who can provide further information and help you understand your options.

Inhalant Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

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