Inhalant Addiction and Abuse

Inhalants produce effects that can be similar to alcohol use and are most commonly abused by teens. They are easy to acquire and readily found in the household products.

Addiction to Inhalants

While less common, inhalant abuse does occur because of the addictive qualities. Most cases occur in more isolated regions. Individuals who use inhalants on a regular can develop a physical and psychological dependence on the substance over time.

Understanding Inhalants

Inhalants are volatile, often flammable substances that vaporize at room temperature. Inhalants produce short-lived, mind-altering effects that can be similar to alcohol’s effects.

Inhalants encompass a wide variety of chemicals and anesthetics categorized together based on their method of administration: inhalation. Household solvents, gases, and anesthetics are among the common substances that are abused. Other common inhalants include:

  • Paint thinner
  • Freon
  • Gasoline
  • Spray paint
  • Lighter fluid
  • Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”)
  • Butane
  • Computer duster spray
  • Glue
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Chloroform
  • Ether

These substances are often referred to as whippets, laughing gas, huff or hippie crack.

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Inhalant Effects and Abuse

Inhalants can be abused using several different methods. The most common method of inhalation is huffing. Huffing is soaking a rag with a liquid inhalant, holding the rag up to one’s mouth, and then inhaling the vapors. Some may inhale the substance directly from its container through their mouth or nose. The substance can also be inhaled out of a plastic or paper bag or heated. Heating the substance intensifies the effects.

The effects of inhalants include:

  • Excitability
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of self-control
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Limited reflexes

Treating an Inhalant Addiction

Inhalant addiction is a rare form of substance dependence, highlighting the need for professional treatment. There are both inpatient and outpatient treatment options available for people suffering with an addiction to inhalants.

Inhalants are one of the most detrimental substances of abuse to a person’s health. If you or someone you know has an inhalant addiction, get help finding treatment.

Signs of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse can be hard to detect because its effects are so short-lived. The ease of hiding inhalant abuse is a likely reason why these substances are commonly abused by teenagers.

Some common signs of inhalant abuse include:

  • Red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Unusual smelling breath
  • Paint or stains on clothing or face
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drunk appearance
  • Anxiety
  • Sores around mouth

Are Inhalants Addictive?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), all inhalants have a potential for dependence. Most cases of abuse occur in the teenage demographic and is usually discontinued as users get older; in some cases, teens who abused inhalants may go on to experiment with other, more dangerous drugs.

A teen with a history of inhalant abuse may be struggling with an underlying disorder that could be effectively addressed through treatment and rehab.

The Dangers of Inhalants

The short-lived effects of inhalants may lead people to incorrectly assume that these substances aren’t that dangerous. Serious physiological side effects generally require heavy, long-term abuse.

The immediate side-effects of inhalant abuse include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Increased gregariousness
  • Diminished motor skills
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Disorientation
  • Suffocation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Convulsions
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Coma
  • Nausea or vomiting
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Repeated inhalant abuse can have serious consequences on a person’s long-term physical and mental health. The effects are quite serious and can be life-threatening due to the fact the chemicals in inhalants can build up in the fatty tissue of major organs.

Some health consequences of long-term inhalant abuse include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Brain damage
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Changes in personality
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory damage

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Recognizing an Inhalant Addiction

It may be hard to determine if an addiction to inhalants exists since most people discontinue abusing inhalants when they reach a certain age. An inhalant addiction is characterized by having two or more of the 11 symptoms of a substance use disorder as outlined by the DSM. These criteria are based on repeated use of the drug despite known negative consequences. Someone addicted to inhalants will continue to use them in spite of their damaging health effects.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can be both psychological and physical. While symptoms are usually mild, those who have a long history of inhalant abuse may experience severe symptoms like seizures.

Common inhalant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Hand tremors
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis

Questions about treatment?

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Duration of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms generally present within the first 24 to 48 hours after the last use. The duration and severity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person. Generally, the worst symptoms occur in about a week.

Inhalant Withdrawal Timeline

Days 1-2 Physical symptoms are often the first to present and usually begin within 48 hours of quitting use. These symptoms may include hand tremors, sweating, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, cravings, insomnia and irritability, may also set in. In some cases, hallucinations or psychosis can present.
Days 3-7 Over the next two to five days, most physical symptoms begin to fade. However, psychological symptoms often remain strong during this time. Depression may set in, and anxiety and insomnia will likely persist. In most cases, psychosis and hallucinations fade quickly.
Days 8+ Over the next few weeks, most symptoms continue to fade until they’re nonexistent. Depression and cravings may linger as the user’s body continues to readjust. It may take a month or two for these symptoms to completely go away.

Treatment Centers for Inhalant Addiction

Rehabs that have doctors and clinicians on staff are informed of the best treatment options for a broad range of addictions. Treatment centers that can provide specific, effective treatment for inhalant addictions are:

Finding Treatment for Inhalant Addiction

Finding treatment for an inhalant addiction can be hard but not impossible. If you or a loved one are struggling with an inhalant addiction, finding the right treatment center is imperative to your success. Call an addiction specialist now, so we can help you find the treatment you need.