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Concurrent Alcohol and Inhalant Abuse

inhalant abuse Alcohol and inhalants are two of the most commonly abused substances, especially among a younger population. The Centers for Disease Control logs more than 4,300 deaths per year from underage drinking and abuse. According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 1 in 5 students has tried inhalants by 8th grade. While abusers start young, adults are at risk as well. The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) describes abusers as more emotionally unstable than other drug abusers, displaying conduct and personality disorders. They typically suffer from anxiety and depression.

Inhalants include a number of intoxicating household products that can be inhaled to produce a short-term high. They include, but are not limited to: glue, paint, paint-thinner, gasoline, lighter fluid and many aerosol sprays. Most are cheap and require no proof of age to purchase; they are therefore abused predominantly by teenagers and the impoverished. “Huffed” into the lungs, their effects are immediate.

Combined with alcohol, these two depressants produce volatile effects that can lead to brain damage, comas or death. Inhalant use can be fatal, even on the first use.

Alcohol and Inhalant Facts:

  • Both are depressants, which slow the body’s functioning
  • They are used predominantly by the young and the impoverished
  • Most inhalants require no identification to purchase

Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

The high from inhalant abuse is often short-lived and therefore difficult to detect. Many symptoms resemble drunkenness. However, there are some distinct characteristics of combined alcohol and inhalant abuse.

Signs of Concurrent Alcohol and Inhalant Abuse:

  • Violent mood swings
  • Extreme headaches
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Strange or bad breath
  • Irritation around the mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Paint or other related products around the mouth
  • Hallucinations and erratic behavior

(Compiled from the NIPC website, “Inhalant Abuse” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Foundation for a Drug-Free World website, and

Combined Effects of Abuse


Inhalants are capable of producing hallucinations, long-term psychosis and severe brain damage. When mixed with alcohol, the two substances severely slow down the respiratory, cardiac and central nervous systems. There is an increased chance of aspiration from vomiting while unconscious. Find out more about the harmful side effects of using inhalants and alcohol and how you can help someone with an addiction problem by calling our helpline. Contact American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at .

Concurrent Alcohol and Inhalant-Induced Health Problems:

  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slowed muscle movement and weak muscles
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of brain mass
  • Depression
  • Deteriorating coordination

(Compiled from the NIPC website, “Inhalant Abuse” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Foundation for a Drug-Free World website, and

Treatment for Co-Occurring Alcohol and Inhalant Addiction

Group therapy, family therapy, 12-Step education, cognitive therapy and recreational therapy are all helpful, but specialized care is required for inhalant abuse due to the severity and complexity of the symptoms. The NIPC Guidelines for Treatment advises that addicts endure a longer detox period. Due to decreased cognitive functioning and low self-esteem, it can be difficult to keep patients interested in the rehabilitation program. Family involvement and support are critical to success.

Statistics on Usage

  • According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, over half a million children aged 12 to 17 use inhalants annually.
  • 1 out of 5 of 8th graders have tried inhalants.
  • The CDC records over 80,000 alcohol related deaths each year and people aged 12-20 make up 11% of all alcohol consumption in the U.S.
  • The CDC also reports that adults over 26 comprise 70% of incidents involving alcohol abuse.
  • The National Survey on Drug Use and Health finds that drinkers under 15 are 5 times more likely to develop substance dependence.
  • The Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality finds that 10% of American parents abuse alcohol in the presence of their children.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism counts about 17 million Americans who abuse the drug.

Teen Drinking and Inhalant Abuse

The American Academy of Pediatrics finds the peak age of inhalant abuse to be somewhere between 14 and 15. They cite family problems and peer pressure as the first contributors to experimentation with the drugs. The NIPC describes users as emotionally unstable teens who are antisocial and often depressed or angry. They generally use inhalants in small groups.

Resources, Articles, and More Information

Info. and Articles:

  • The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition website provides a wealth of information. They also offer a helpline.
  • A well-written and brief overview of inhalants can be found at the American Academy of Pediatrics website.
  • The Good Drugs Guide offers info. on mixing inhalants with alcohol and other substances.

If you or a loved one needs help with addiction or substance misuse, call American Addiction Centers (AAC) for free at . A trusted admissions navigator will help you find the care you need. With the help of professional addiction treatment, anyone battling a substance use problem can start on the path to a happier and healthier life.

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