Inhalants and Abuse

These days, the lists of inhalants that are abused have increased. Basically, one can get high with household objects that are located under the kitchen sink, in the bathroom or other locales within a typical American residence.

What exactly are inhalants?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, inhalants are solvents found in industrial or household products such as paint thinner fluids, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, and lighter fluid, nitrites including leather cleaner, liquid aromas and room deodorizers, and gases used for anesthesia as well as gases found in propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols, and butane lighters. Finding help

The Mayo Clinic reports that people abuse inhalants in various ways including “huffing” where a rag is drenched in an inhalant and pressed to the mouth, “sniffing” where the inhalant is sniffed from the container, “spraying” where the aerosol is directly sprayed into the mouth, “bagging” where fumes are sprayed or poured into a plastic or paper bag and inhaled, and “inhaling,” as in the case of helium, where nitrous oxide is inhaled from a balloon.

Sounds scary?

Well it is.

According to a News-Herald article, inhalants pose major life-threatening risks.

Inhalant abuse causes short-term effects including a lack of coordination, euphoria, dizziness, hallucinations, and slurred speech. Long-term effects include liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, bone marrow damage, nerve damage, brain problems, as well as brain damage, resulting from cutting off oxygen flow to the brain.

Nitrites are abused because users believe that inhaling them increases sexual pleasure. By being intoxicated, they might forget to take necessary measures before having sex, thus increasing their chances of acquiring HIV/AIDS and/or hepatitis.

Overdosing on inhalants can lead to seizures, coma and death. What’s also terrifying about inhalants is that a healthy young person, who’s never abused an inhalant before, sniffs aerosol spray, and as a result, his or her heart beats faster than normal. This can trigger heart failure.  Another dangerous habit that some abusers practice is placing a bag over their heads, prior to inhaling. This can cause death from asphyxiation.

Other ways that inhalants cause death include coma, (where the brain shuts down), convulsions (from choking after ingesting vomit, which often follows inhalant abuse), and accidents, (which occur while being under the influence).

Since the euphoria obtained by inhalants lasts a few minutes, abusers often repeat the inhaling, which places them more in harm’s way.

Why would people in their right mind even dream about “huffing,” spraying or snorting? Many users tend to be of younger age, and probably have no idea as to the dangers of inhalant abuse. According to The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch, inhalants are often one of the first chemical substances that a young person will abuse. About one in five students nationwide has tried an inhalant to get high, before they even get to the eighth grade. Additionally, the Alliance for Consumer Education says that 17,000 people abuse inhalants on a daily basis, and that 22 million Americans have tried inhalants.

Sometimes kids abuse inhalants for other reasons including untreated co-occurring disorders. And abusers often proceed to using illegal drugs and/or alcohol.

There are tragic stories of young users who have died due to inhalant abuse, including a young 14-year old girl named Ashley. According to her mother, her daughter was excited about going to a slumber party on a Saturday morning. That night the parents received a call from a police officer telling them that paramedics were working on their daughter, but there was no response. Ashley died of asphyxiation resulting from helium abuse, so chances were the girls were inhaling from balloons.

The picture of a smiling young Ashley who had a promise of a long, healthy life is heartbreaking.

It’s imperative for those who abuse inhalants to understand the dangerous side effects.

The bottom line is that abusing inhalants is like playing Russian roulette.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that evidence-based therapy, along with treatment for substance abuse is the key to treating inhalant abuse. By treating the chemical addiction, as well as any underlying co-occurring disorders, young addicts learn that there is hope and that life is more joyous when they learn to make healthier choices.