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Inhalants are invisible, volatile, breathable chemical vapors that have mind altering effects on users. These are gases produced from solid or liquid state of natural substances and are commonly found in household or workplace products like nail polish remover, permanent markers, paint and spray paint, household cleaning supplies, glue, gasoline, and thousands of other products. Because these substances are legal, they are easily available in local grocery stores, home stores, and drug stores. These are also available as laughing gas (nitrous oxide), bold (nitrites), whippets (fluorinated hydrocarbons), snappers (amyl nitrite), and rush (nitrites).

Unfortunately, inhalant abuse has emerged as a dangerous trend amongst adolescents. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 556,000 people above the age of 12 years are current inhalant users, of which 0.6 percent are aged between 12 to 17. One of the primary reasons for its rising popularity is the fact that these products are inexpensive and easily available.

Types of Inhalants

There are four categories of inhalants which can be abused. These include aerosols, gases, volatile solvents, and nitrites. Some of the commonly abused inhalants are:

  • Beauty products: Nail polish removers, nail polish, hair spray, and deodorants
  • Art and stationary products: Glues, felt-tip markers, correction fluid, inks, paints, rubber cement, and aerosol-based cleaning products
  • Medical supplies: Anesthetics like nitrous oxide (laughing gas), chloroform, amyl nitrate, butyl nitrate, and halothane
  • Automotive supplies: Gasoline, spray lubricants, and brake fluid
  • Cleaning supplies: Deodorizers, aerosol air fresheners, leather cleaners, and dusters
  • Cooking supplies: Whipped cream dispensers, olive oil, and vegetable oil sprays
  • Household and commercial products: Paint removers or thinners, dry cleaning fluids, varnishes, butane lighters, propane tanks, contact cement, and lighter fluids

Effects of Inhalant Abuse

Most of the inhalants depress the central nervous system (CNS) in the same way as opioids. Some of the effects of inhalant abuse include:

  • Euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Inebriate or disoriented actions
  • Irritability and depression
  • Sudden sniffing death due to stopping of heart
  • Death from seizure(s), suffocation, choking, or coma 

Consequences of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse is also known as sniffing, hugging, bagging, or solvent abuse. It can cause serious short-term as well as long-term effects on teens’ health and prolonged use can even lead to permanent organ damage.

Some of the health consequences of inhalant abuse are:

  • Bone marrow damage
  • Freezing of esophagus and lungs
  • Brain and nervous system damage
  • Vision and hearing loss
  • Damage to internal organs like the liver and kidney
  • Muscle damage
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Lingering headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Suffocation
  • Vascular collapse
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Coma
  • Death

Inhalant abuse can also result in the death of a person due to asphyxiation, seizure, suffocation, and choking. One of the most dangerous consequence of inhalant abuse is “sudden sniffing death” in which the brain rapidly loses oxygen, stress hormones flood the body, the heartbeat becomes irregular, and death onsets quickly. This may happen when the user is using the inhalant for the first time or the hundredth time.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

Teens who repeatedly abuse inhalants are likely to develop physical and psychological dependence on them leading to addiction. Sudden stoppage or going cold turkey can lead to severe uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Some of these may last up to several weeks and months. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors and chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of appetite

Treatment for inhalant addiction

As inhalant abuse does not show up in drug tests, detecting the presence of an addiction to the same can be challenging. However, if you are aware of anybody suffering from an addiction, it is imperative that they are guided to a professional for immediate help.

Before treatment for inhalant abuse can be started, it is important to thoroughly assess the patient’s mental and physical condition to assess the damage to internal organs. Once the extent of the damage has been determined, the patient can be started on a medically assisted detoxification treatment, followed by behavioral therapies or counseling sessions.

Treatment at Adeona Healthcare

Adeona Healthcare, a leading rehab center for adolescents aged between 12 to 17, provides comprehensive treatment programs for addiction, mental health illnesses, and dual-diagnosis. We understand that being a teen is a sensitive time that requires delicate care. Our experienced staff offers this in a safe and secure environment ensuring complete confidentiality.

Our treatment programs for inhalant addiction take care of the specific needs of recovering individuals, thereby, offering the best chance at a successful recovery. In addition to medications, we also offer therapies like solution-focused therapy (SFT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), increasing the chances of long-term recovery. For more information about our addiction treatment programs, call our 24/7 helpline 888-379-9360 and speak with a member from our admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.  

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