What are inhalants?
Inhalants are substances that people inhale (breathe in) to get high. There are other substances that people might inhale, such as alcohol. But those are not called inhalants, because they can also be used another way. Inhalants are the substances that you can misuse only by inhaling them.
Using inhalants to try to get high, even once, can be very harmful to your brain and body. It can even lead to death.
What are the types of inhalants?
Inhalants are often products that are easily bought and can be found in the home or workplace. They contain dangerous substances that have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties when they are inhaled. There are four main types of inhalants are:
- Solvents, which are liquids that become gas at room temperature. They include paint thinner, nail polish remover, gasoline, and glue.
- Aerosol sprays, such as spray paint, deodorant spray, and vegetable oil sprays.
- Gases, including gas from lighters, whipped cream dispensers, and laughing gas.
- Nitrites, which are similar to a prescription medicine for chest pain. They are sometimes called "poppers." They are sold in small bottles and may be labeled as "air freshener," "leather cleaner," or "liquid aroma." They are usually not used to alter someone's mood, but to improve their sexual function.
Some of the common slang terms for various inhalants include:
- Laughing gas
How do people use inhalants?
People who use inhalants breathe in the fumes through their nose or mouth, usually by "sniffing," "snorting," "bagging," or "huffing." It's called different names depending on the substance and equipment used.
The high that inhalants produce usually lasts just a few minutes, so people often try to make it last by inhaling them again and again over several hours.
Who uses inhalants?
Inhalants are mostly used by young kids and teens. They often try inhalants before they try other substances because inhalants are easier to get.
What are the signs that someone is using inhalants?
Signs that someone is using inhalants include:
- Chemical odors on breath or clothing
- Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes
- Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing
- Red or runny eyes or nose
- Drunk or disoriented appearance
- Slurred speech
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression
What are the health effects of using inhalants?
Most inhalants affect your central nervous system and slow down brain activity. Inhalants can cause both short-term and long-term health effects:
- Short-term health effects include:
- Slurred or distorted speech
- Lack of body control
- Euphoria (feeling "high")
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't real)
- Long-term health effects may include:
Using inhalants, even once, could lead to an overdose. This can cause you to have seizures or your heart to stop. It can also be deadly.
Are inhalants addictive?
Behavioral therapy may help people who are addicted to inhalants.
Can inhalant misuse be prevented?
Kids and teens who use inhalants to get high are more likely to try other drugs and to have a substance use disorder (SUD) later in life. So it's important to try to prevent inhalant abuse. One thing that parents can do is talk to their children about inhalants. They can explain the dangers and give their children tips on how to deal with peer pressure if someone asks them to try inhalants.
NIH: National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Drug Use Screening Tests (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Ingesting or Inhaling Nitrite "Poppers" Can Cause Severe Injury or Death (Food and Drug Administration) Also in Spanish
- Inhalant Abuse (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Inhalants (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Research Reports: Inhalants (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Also in Spanish
- Substance use -- inhalants (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Analytical methods for detecting butane, propane, and their metabolites in biological...
- Article: Nitrous Oxide Inhalant Abuse: Preliminary Results from a Cross-Sectional Study on...
- Article: Inhalant abuse among youth: the need for urgent intervention to address...
- Inhalants -- see more articles