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Types of Inhalants

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

Young People are Especially at Risk

By eighth grade, nearly one in five 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.