What are inhalants?

Inhalants are commonly known as various types of substances, that are used by inhaling. These substances can be solvents, aerosol sprays, gases, nitrites. Inhalants can be purchased in home stores or found at home or workplace. These substances often include markers, spray paints, glues, cleaning solutions, solvents, aerosols, nail polish remover, and gasoline. These substances contain psychoactive elements and are dangerous for ingestion. Most people do not consider these home products as drugs, but some individuals use them as an alternative to get high. While these substances are used, they are called inhalants. Statistically, inhalants used by teens and young kids.

How do people use inhalants?

Inhalants used by breathing in the fumes from the substances, either nasally or by mouth, and are often by snorting, sniffing, bagging, and huffing. The names vary depending on which substance is used.

According to a national survey posted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 21.7 million Americans age 12 and older used inhalants. Parents and children need to know that even a small amount of inhalant can cause serious health problems, and even death. Since inhalants use only produces high for a short time, people tend to abuse them by frequent inhalation time and again.

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List of products used as Inhalants


  • paint thinners
  • paint removers
  • dry cleaning substances
  • gasoline
  • lighter fluid
  • correctional fluids used for art
  • marker fluid
  • cleansers for electronics
  • glue


  • spray paint
  • hair sprays
  • deodorant sprays
  • aerosols for computer cleaning
  • cooking sprays


  • butane lighter
  • propane tanks
  • whipped cream aerosol (called whippets)
  • ether
  • chloroform
  • nitrous oxide


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  • room sprays
  • leather cleaners
  • media cleaners
  • liquid aroma

Close-up of an aerosol can nozzle.

How do inhalants affect the brain?

Inhalant can have powerful effects on CNS (central nervous system) and therefore diminish brain activity. Inhalants mimic the effects of alcohol, and produce the following sensations:

  • distorted speech
  • loss of coordination and balance
  • euphoria
  • lightheadedness

More severe effects of inhalant use may be hallucinations, delusions, loss of control, vomiting, drowsiness, and a debilitating headache.

What are the long-term health effects of inhalant use?

If inhalants used repeatedly and for long periods, they may cause the following health issues:

  • liver and kidney damage
  • loss of hearing
  • damaged bone marrow
  • loss of coordination
  • behavioral issues
  • brain damage

Also, when nitrites are misused to improve sexual performance, they can result in unsafe and promiscuous behaviors, and lead to contracting infections like HIV and hepatitis.

Can someone overdose on inhalants?

A person abusing inhalants may overdose due to toxic effects, which may lead to severe symptoms and death. Some of the effects of inhalant abuse may be seizures and come.  Most aerosols and solvents sold in highly concentrated forms, and contain harmful chemicals. They can cause sudden sniffing death, or make the heart stop right away. Even if the person is young and healthy, and using the inhalants for the first time, the reaction may still be lethal. Some people use bags, that cause suffocation.

Is there a treatment for inhalant overdoes?

If an individual using inhalants repeatedly, it may result in addiction.  A substance use disorder may develop due to persistent use, health issues, the decline in responsibilities at home, work and school, and the inability to stop using these chemicals.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of inhalant addiction?

  • loss of appetite
  • sweating
  • insomnia
  • mood swings
  • nausea

Is there a treatment for inhalant addiction?

For people who are looking to get help for their inhalant addiction will need assistance from recovery specialists, to be evaluated and prescribed a treatment plan. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is proven to be the most effective for any drug addiction treatment. The patients learn to cope with life situations without using drugs, they attain skills to avoid and prevent triggers, and receive motivational rewards for abstaining from drug use, and exhibiting positive behavior.