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Inhalants are accessible as common household items such as paint thinners, glues, or cleaning supplies that come in aerosol containers. Inhalants are “[V]olatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect.”

Because they are readily accessible, inhalants are often used for a quick-acting high. For the same reason, inhalants are usually not thought of as dangerous. However, inhalants can be highly addictive and have harmful short-term and long-term effects on both the body and mind.

Learning about the dangers of inhalant addiction and identifying the signs of inhalant addiction in yourself or a loved one can help you find the help you need.

What Are Inhalants?

There are four general categories used to identify inhalants.

#1 Volatile Solvents

Volatile solvents are inhalants that vaporize at room temperature. Common volatile solvents include paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, degreasers, glue, and felt-tip markers.

#2 Aerosols

Aerosols are sprays containing propellants and solvents. Aerosols include spray paint, hair spray, fabric protector spray, and more. 

#3 Gases

This type of inhalant includes medical anesthetics and gases used in household or commercial products. Medical anesthetics include chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide. Household or commercial products containing gases include butane lighters, propane tanks, and refrigerants. 

#4 Nitrites

Nitrites are a special class of inhalants. Nitrites do not act like other types of inhalants, which affect the central nervous system. Instead, nitrites dilate blood vessels and relax muscles. Nitrites are often used for sexual enhancement. Common nitrites include cyclohexyl nitrite, isoamyl nitrite, and isobutyl nitrite.

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Inhalants

The effects of inhalants are often compared to those of alcohol due to similar effects. However, unlike alcohol, inhalants can cause temporary hallucinations. The effects of inhalants only last for a few minutes and may include:

  • Excitability
  • Loss of self-control
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Limited reflexes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blacking out
  • Slurred or distorted speech

Long-term use of inhalants can cause significant damage to the body. Long-term use of inhalants can lead to:

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Loss of coordination and limb spasms
  • Nerve damage
  • Delayed behavioral development
  • Brain damage

Higher doses or deep breathing of inhalants can also lead to overdose. Signs of inhalant overdose often include a loss of touch with reality combined with nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness. 

Causes of Inhalant Addiction

As with any addiction, inhalant addiction occurs when a person becomes physically or emotionally dependent on a drug. It is not the result of a lack of character or moral compass. Both environment and genetics play a role in addiction

The use of drugs causes changes in the brain. The feeling of euphoria that substances cause sends the message that something good is happening and floods the brain with dopamine. Dopamine surges encourage repetition of the behavior. Then, the brain begins to adapt to the high. This new tolerance means it takes more of the substance to gain the same initial high. These changes make it harder to stop using a substance and lead to addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Addiction

There are various signs that can point to an inhalant addiction in a loved one, including: 

  • Appearing to be drunk (slurred speech and impaired judgment or functioning) without drinking any alcohol
  • Breath or clothing that smells of chemicals
  • An unusual number of empty spray cans or solvent containers in the home
  • Paint from an unknown source on the hands, face, or clothes
  • Appearing to be sluggish, drowsy, belligerent, or apathetic

Signs you may be addicted to inhalants include:

  • Cravings for inhalants
  • Increased effort to obtain inhalants
  • Prioritizing inhalant use over everyday responsibilities
  • Continued use of inhalants despite consequences
  • Increased tolerance to inhalants
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the use of inhalants is stopped or cut down

Getting Help for an Inhalant Addiction

If these symptoms ring true for you or your loved one, getting help is essential to reduce the health risks associated with inhalant abuse. Detox is often the first step in overcoming inhalant addiction. When you stop using inhalants, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Hand tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Brief hallucinations

Not everybody who is addicted to inhalants will experience withdrawal symptoms. Getting assessed by a medical professional can help determine the need for detox. The medical professionals in detox can help you safely overcome withdrawal symptoms.

After completing detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment is recommended. In treatment, you can learn to work through the feelings and experiences that may have led to your addiction. With treatment, you can learn to live life without the use of inhalants. A facility like West Coast Recovery Centers can help you overcome addiction through our various traditional and holistic therapeutic modalities.

Despite popular belief, inhalants are highly addictive and dangerous substances. The use of inhalants can have many short- and long-term health effects and can lead to addiction. Identifying the signs of inhalant addiction in yourself or a loved one can help you seek the care you deserve. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we are ready to help you overcome inhalant addiction. We offer outpatient treatment and sober living residences with qualified staff who can help you build a life free from the use of inhalants. Our facility offers various treatment approaches such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), trauma-release exercises, group, therapy, and more. With West Coast Recovery Centers, you can find lasting, self-determined recovery from addiction. To learn more about our services and how West Coast Recovery Centers can help you or a loved one, call us today at (760) 492-6509.