Everything You Need to Know Inhalant Abuse 

Would you know if a loved one was abusing inhalants?

A new study has found an unusual link between inhalant abuse and head injuries, mental illness and traumatic experiences.

The findings of this new study, published in the latest issue of the journal PLOS One, came from a joint research project involving scientists at Georgia State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They interviewed 723 incarcerated youth that lived in 27 different Missouri Division of Youth Services facilities, assessing their annual use of 65 different inhalants, medical history and psychiatric symptoms, among other criteria.

The scientists found that severe polyinhalant users, or those who used multiple inhalants either simultaneously or successively over a period of time, had the highest rates of traumatic experiences and mental illness diagnoses among the study participants. Compared to other inhalant users, severe polyinhalant users also had more than double the rate of head injuries. They also had more episodes of delinquent behavior that began occurring at a younger age.

Those who exhibited antisocial behaviors such as aggression, hostility and defiance were also more prone to inhalant use. Forty percent of youth defined as antisocial have used inhalants, compared to nine percent of the general population.

However, the researchers were not able to explain exactly why instances of mental illness and traumatic experiences would cause a person to turn to inhalants over other substances. It was also unclear whether any of these underlying factors in the young participants began occurring after they started abusing inhalants.

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants typically produce chemical vapors that  a user will “sniff,” “huff” or “snort” in order to produce a mind-altering, psychoactive effect. These fumes are often inhaled directly from aerosol cans, but can also be consumed via paper and plastic bags, containers and soaked rags.

Inhalant abuse is extremely dangerous and poses serious health consequences that can include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Optic nerve damage
  • Liver damage
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Heart irregularities
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Treatment for Inhalant Abuse

Getting medical help to treat an inhalant abuse problem could literally mean the difference between life and death. Although treatment centers that solely focus on inhalant abuse may be hard to find, there are plenty of inpatient rehab facilities in your area with medical staff who are trained to address this issue.

Licensed medical staff will address existing physical damage to a patient that was caused by inhalants. Counseling and psychiatric care will also be a crucial part of recovery in order for patients to understand why they engaged in this behavior and to learn coping skills that will help prevent them from continuing it.

This life-threatening behavior may be difficult to stop, but it’s not beyond the realm of control. It’s very possible to join the millions of Americans who have stopped abusing inhalants and gone on to lead sober lives.

Learn more about the harmful effects of inhalant abuse.


Image Source: iStock