Some of the top substances of abuse among young people are inhalants – a group of chemicals that are often easily found around the house and abused by “huffing” the fumes they create. Though markers, hygiene products, cleaners, and other common household products may seem innocuous enough, when used for the purposes of getting high, they can trigger a host of problems including:
- Immediate brain damage
- Diminished cognitive abilities over time
- Addiction to other substances
Use or abuse of inhalants for the purposes of getting high in any amount or frequency is not safe. Recognizing the signs is the first step toward getting someone you love the help he needs to stop using today.
Commonly Abused Inhalants
There are too many different chemicals and household products that can be abused for the purposes of getting high to list. There are, however, a few different categories of products that are commonly used, including:
- Aerosols: If the product comes in a spray can, it’s an aerosol. When these products are sprayed into a bag – whether they are cooking oils, beauty products like deodorant or hairspray, or a cleaner – users can inhale the fumes to get high.
- Nitrites: Often called “poppers,” nitrites are used by young adults, in the club scene, or in the bedroom. Nitrites are often found in small bottles, and users inhale the fumes of the liquid.
- Solvents: A range of products falls in this category, from degreasers to correction fluid to paint remover. Users will often soak a piece of fabric with the substance and then put it to his face and inhale the fumes.
- Gases: Nitrous oxide like that used in reusable whipping cream containers is the most commonly abused gas.
Signs of Inhalant Abuse
In addition to finding that a number of household items are missing or finding significant numbers of empty containers in the trash inexplicably, others signs of inhalant abuse include:
- Paraphernalia: Inhalant users may use anything to inhale their substance of choice: cotton balls, a rag, their sleeve. Similarly, a paper bag, balloon, and other similar items may be used to capture fumes for the purposes of inhaling them.
- Smell: The fumes associated with these substances are not odorless. In fact, they are often very strong. A chemical smell on someone’s clothes or in his hair can indicate inhalant abuse.
- Unfamiliar bottles: Nitrites, for example, may be sold in small bottles marked “liquid aroma” or “leather cleaner.” Finding these types of items when it doesn’t make sense can indicate a problem.
- Marks on the skin: Users who abuse spray paint, for example, often spray it into a paper bag, then hold the paper bag up to their mouth and “huff” – or breathe hard in and out – in order to breathe the fumes rapidly and deeply. They often end up with some of the paint around their mouths – this is a red flag for inhalant abuse.
If you believe that someone you love is abusing inhalants, don’t wait to intervene and connect them with treatment. We can help. Call now to find a treatment program that can help your family member overcome inhalant abuse.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton