Inhalant Addiction

Inhalants are often used as an alternative to other mind-altering drugs because they are cheap and easy to obtain. In fact, inhalants can readily be found in most homes in the form of household products used for cleaning, painting and cooking. Inhalant use is very dangerous. When used to get high, inhalants can cause serious brain damage and, in some cases, result in death.

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants alter mood and produce feelings of euphoria. Aerosol sprays are perhaps the most prevalent household inhalant. Other common inhalants include hair spray, air freshener, static cling spray and spray paint. Products that contain nitrous oxide, like propane tanks, whipped cream cans and butane lighters can also be used as inhalants.

Some room deodorizers and certain vapor releasing capsules are referred to as “poppers” or “snappers” in street terms. Liquids that turn to gas when they reach room temperature are called “volatile solvents.” These inhalants include paint thinners, gasoline, glues and felt-tip markers.

Inhalants can be abused in several ways. They can be taken directly, through sniffing, snorting or inhaling into the mouth. Indirect methods such as inhaling from a bag or sniffing from a rag are also used. Nitrous oxide can be inhaled from balloons.

Users of inhalants report feelings of:

  • Confusion
  • Delusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Euphoria
  • Excitement
  • Hallucination
  • Lack of inhibition.

The Biology of Inhalant Addiction

The high of inhalants is short-lived, lasting only for a few minutes, but the effects of glue sniffing and other inhalant abuse can be far-reaching. Many users will continue the use of inhalants repeatedly in order to sustain the effects.

Because of the repetitive manner of use seen in inhalant addiction, their health effects are often be long-term. Heavy metals are found in inhaled products that can cause irreversible damage to the brain, liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

Inhalant Addiction Risk Factors

Inhalants can be both physically and psychologically addictive, and some common risk factors for inhalant addiction exist. Teens are most at risk for inhalant abuse, because of the inexpensive and easily obtainable nature of the products that can be used as inhalants. Socioeconomic factors may play a role in inhalant use by adults who are unable to afford more expensive recreational drugs.

Inhalant Addiction Warning Signs

Some warning signs of inhalant abuse and addiction may include:

  • Bloodshot and glazed eyes
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Facial rashes and blisters
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Noticeable agitation, anger or irritability
  • Runny nose or nose bleeds
  • Slurred speech
  • Very bad chemical breath.

If you notice any of these signs in a friend, loved one or even in yourself, it’s important to seek treatment.

Inhalant Addiction Treatments

Treatments for inhalant addiction come in many forms. Residential programs are an option, such as rehabilitation facilities or wilderness programs. Twelve-step programs and individual or group counseling are available for those who prefer outpatient services.

All treatment types will focus on behavioral modification in which skills like dealing with cravings, preventing relapses and avoiding negative situations are taught. Individuals will also likely receive assistance with the symptoms of withdrawal, such as sweats, tremors or nausea. Medical treatment for seizures or the management of mood swings may be combined with behavioral therapy.

How To Seek Help

If you’re not sure where to find treatment, a good place to start is with a physician, nurse or school counselor. These professionals can direct you to the resources you need to get help.

You may also wish to call the 24-hour help lines of either Choose Help at 1-877-830-7020 or Recovery Connections at 1-800-993-3869.

Resources (2008). Inhalant addiction — Symptoms, risks and treatments. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from (n.d.). Inhalant abuse. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from

VanVranken, M., M.D. (2008). Inhalants. Retrieved August 19, 2010 from