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
- Glues and adhesives
- Hair spray
- Lighter fluid
- Mineral spirits
- Nail preparation
- Paint thinners
24-hour Poison Control Center hotline:
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:
Breathing in fumes from a cloth soaked in a chemical
Breathing in fumes from an open container or filling a closet or car with vapors
Placing the substance in a plastic bag and holding it over the mouth and nose
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:
- 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.