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Inhalants are chemicals that cause a person to feel high after inhaling or breathing them in. They are found in these common household products and many others:

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Correction fluid
  • Felt tip markers
  • Gasoline
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Hair spray
  • Kerosene
  • Lighter fluid
  • Mineral spirits
  • Nail preparation
  • Paint
  • Paint thinners
  • Refrigerants
  • Turpentine

24-hour Poison Control Center hotline: 1-800-222-1222

Young people are especially at risk

By 8th grade, nearly 1 in 5 young people have used an inhalant to get high, risking brain damage and death. Young people can get high on more than a thousand useful and completely legal products.

People may use inhalants because:

  • Inhalants are cheap and easy to get
  • They feel pressure from their peers
  • They get a temporary high

People use inhalants by:

  • Huffing

Breathing in fumes from a cloth soaked in a chemical

  • Sniffing

Breathing in fumes from an open container or filling a closet or car with vapors

  • Bagging

Placing the substance in a plastic bag and holding it over the mouth and nose

  • Spraying

Putting a substance directly into the mouth


Signs of inhalant abuse

The most common signs of inhalant abuse are:

  • Anxiety, excitability, irritability
  • Chemical-soaked rags, socks or bags
  • Disappearance of household products
  • Drunk, dazed or dizzy appearance
  • Red areas or sores around the mouth
  • Red eyes and/or runny nose
  • Unusual chemical breath odor

Risks of inhalant abuse

Most young people believe that they can’t die from inhalants. This is not true. A user can suffer from “sudden sniffing death,” which occurs when inhalants disrupt heart rhythms and lead to cardiac arrest.
Death can also result from suffocation or a fatal injury caused by a car accident when driving while high.

Inhalant use can also cause:

  • Coma
  • Danger to unborn children when used by pregnant women
  • Death, even with a one-time use. Mixing inhalants with other drugs and alcohol increases the chances of coma or death.
  • Impaired vision, slurred speech, short-term memory loss
  • Loss of motor skills and coordination
  • Permanent damage to the nervous system, lungs, kidneys and other organs. Brain scans have shown “holes” in the brains of chronic users of inhalants, resulting in permanent brain damage.
  • Poor judgment, poor grades, poor appetite
  • Physical and psychological addiction

Parents can make a difference

Talk to your children about the dangers of inhalant abuse. Start educating them about inhalants at a young age.

Inhalant abuse often begins in elementary school. Consult a school counselor, physician or drug-counseling center if you suspect inhalant abuse.

Take action if you suspect inhalant abuse

If you suspect inhalant abuse, call The University of Kansas Hospital Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.


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