What are inhalants?
These are products that give off a gas or fumes. They make you feel light-headed and giddy when you inhale them. At larger doses they can make a person act and feel as if they have been drinking alcohol. The effects only last for a few minutes, so a person may use them over and over again to keep feeling high.
The four kinds of inhalants are:
- volatile solvents (gas, paint thinner, glue)
- spray cans (cooking spray, hairspray)
- gases (laughing gas, butane)
- nitrites (room odourizers, video head cleaners)
How are inhalants misused?
People use inhalants in many ways:
- Bagged: The inhalant is put in a bag, the bag is closed around the mouth and nose, fumes are breathed in.
- Huffed: The inhalant is poured onto a cloth, the cloth is held up to the face and the fumes are breathed in.
- Sniffed: Nitrites are either inhaled directly from the small glass tubes they come in or huffed from a cloth.
- Inhaled: Gases used for medical purposes are kept in tanks or dispensers. They are inhaled through tubes or balloons.
The use of inhalants is especially popular among 10-16 year olds. They are legal and easy to find (often around the house) and the effects are short term.
The effect depends on which inhalant is used and how much.
What are the effects of inhalants?
- faster heart rate
- watering eyes, running nose
- sneezing, coughing
- seeing or believing things that aren't there (hallucinations, delusions)
- slurred speech
- problems with coordination
- dizzy, light headed
- feelings of joy and euphoria
- less inhibited and may say or do things they usually wouldn't
- nausea or vomiting
- weak muscles
- slow reflexes
- hostile and ready to fight
- apathetic, don't care
- confused, delirious (at high doses)
- death, even after just one use by:
- sudden sniffing death - heart beats quickly and irregularly, and then suddenly stops (cardiac arrest)
- asphyxiation - toxic fumes replace oxygen in the lungs so that a person stops breathing
- suffocation - air is blocked from entering the lungs when inhaling fumes from a plastic bag placed over the head
- convulsions or seizures - abnormal electrical discharges in the brain
- coma - the brain shuts down all but the most vital functions
- choking - inhaling vomit after inhalant use
- injuries - accidents, including driving, while intoxicated
People do not seem to become physically dependent on inhalants. But it is possible to become psychologically dependent and think you need to keep taking them. Heavy users, particularly those who use a lot and for a long time, have reported a strong need to continue using. They may experience some of these mild withdrawal symptoms:
- not hungry
- shaky, tremors
- see things that aren't there - hallucinate