Inhalant Addiction

Inhalants are a group of volatile or pressurized liquids or gases that are inhaled to attain an altered mental state. Inhalants are psychoactive chemicals that pose many psychiatric and medical dangers. Many inhalants are ubiquitous in the modern world, such as gasoline, butane, and toluene.

Inhalants include fuels, glues, propellants, paint thinners, nail polish and nail polish remover, and multiple other volatile or gaseous products. It would be unwieldy to list all the possible chemicals that can be used as inhalants in this article. The most commonly abused inhalants will be discussed.

There are gaseous anesthetics that are used for sedation, pain relief, and in general anesthesia, such as nitrous oxide, desflurane, sevoflurane, isoflurane and others. These gases are not commonly available and are not illicitly produced, except for nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide has been known to be used in rave parties, by inhaling the gas from balloons and other types of vessels and containers.

Inhalant abuse and addiction is a grave concern for the young population. Inhalants are most commonly abused by preteenagers and teenagers, especially by those who are homeless. The practice of inhaling a volatile liquid that has been poured onto a cloth-based item, such as towels or rags, inhaled by placing the liquid in an absorbent material in a bag, or from an opened vessel is called huffing, sniffing, and bagging.

Types of Inhalants

Medical Inhalants:
A. Nitrous Oxide
B. Ether (diethyl either)
C. Any of the anesthetic gases that are used in surgery, such as desflurane, sevoflurane, and isoflurane
Inhalant Gases:
A. Chlorofluorocarbons – Used as propellants in hair spray, deodorant, suntan lotion, non-stick cooking spray, aerosol air dusters, and others.
B. Nitrous Oxide – Contained in whipped cream containers
C. Butane
D. Propane
Inhalant Solvents:
A. Toluene – Paint thinner, glue, cement glue
B. Acetone – Nail polish remover
C. Petroleum products – Gasoline, Kerosene

Unfortunately, inhalant addiction is widespread and mainly affects the young, impoverished (especially street persons), or incarcerated folks. Persons with serious mental health problems who are institutionalized are also prone to inhalant addiction.

Even though inhalant addiction is relatively rare, it is a serious disorder that greatly affects those who suffer from it. Because inhalant addiction is rare, it is important that families, communities, and the public be educated on its signs and symptoms.

Signs & Symptoms of Inhalant Addiction

  1. Rashes around the mouth or nose
  2. Various containers of inhalants laying around the house, in bags, or hidden in various locations
  3. Stains from inhalants on clothing, rugs, and body
  4. Inhalant odors in the environment or on the inhalant addict’s body, breathe, or in the hair
  5. Bizarre behavior, such as drunkenness in the absence of drinking alcohol, slurred speech, nausea and vomiting with no other apparent reason, zoning-out, poor coordination, and strange mood swings.

Inhalant Addiction Treatment

The medical treatment for inhalant addiction is like that of other addictions. Inpatient drug detox may be required in cases of acute intoxication or in cases where serious mental health and medical problems are arisen due to the use of inhalants. Typically, however, residential drug rehab is utilized as a starting point for inhalant addiction treatment.

In rehab, after the patient is stabilized medically and his/her psychiatric condition has normalized, the inhalant addict will learn coping skills to allow him/her to deal with daily life stressors without inhaling drugs. These alternative coping skills also teach those with an inhalant addiction how to enjoy life without sniffing glue, using poppers, or inhaling gasoline. Learning meaningful ways to interact with others and to develop positive and healthy relationships is core to the treatment provided in drug rehab.
All underlying mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, grief issues, and social anxiety will also be addressed in a multifactorial fashion.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one has been absorbed by a life of inhalant abuse and are seeking evidence-based solutions, the Addiction Specialists at the National Addiction Institute can help guide you in the right direction. Our staff is available 24-hours a day, and 7-days a week to answer your questions and provide you with resources that you may find to be helpful while combating an inhalant addiction. Call now at 844-889-8140.