“Inhalants” refers to the vapors from toxic substances which are inhaled to reach a quick high. Of more than 1,000 household and other common products that could be abused as inhalants, most often used are shoe polish, glue, toluene,1 gasoline, lighter fluid, nitrous oxide2 or “whippets,” spray paint, correction fluid, cleaning fluid, amyl nitrite3 or “poppers,” locker room deodorizers or “rush,” and lacquer thinner or other paint solvents.
Inhalants can be physically and psychologically addictive. Users report a strong urge to continue using inhalants, especially after continued usage over many days.
Habitual users coming off inhalants suffer withdrawal symptoms which can include nausea, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, headaches, chills, agitation, with shaking and hallucinations. In severe cases, withdrawal can cause convulsions.
Most inhalants act directly on the nervous system to produce mind-altering effects. Within seconds, the user experiences intoxication and other effects similar to those from alcohol. There are a variety of effects that may be experienced during or shortly after use, including:
Drunk, dizzy or dazed appearance
Inability to coordinate movement
Hallucinations and delusions
Rashes around the nose and mouth
Prolonged sniffing of these chemicals can induce irregular and rapid heartbeat and lead to heart failure and death within minutes.
Death from suffocation can occur by replacing oxygen in the lungs with the chemical, and then in the central nervous system, so that breathing ceases.
Long-term users have experienced:
Lack of coordination
Serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain
Memory impairment, diminished intelligence
Bone marrow damage
Deaths from heart failure or asphyxiation (loss of oxygen)
The chronic use of inhalants has been associated with a number of serious health problems. Sniffing glue and paint thinner causes kidney problems. Sniffing toluene and other solvents causes liver damage. Inhalant abuse has also resulted in memory impairment and diminished intelligence.