A common indication of the pleasurable effect of an illicit drug is how quickly it reaches the brain. Inhalant drugs are abused because their toxic vapors administer a quick high. Vapors are quickly absorbed into the lungs, then through the bloodstream where they reach the brain and other organs.
Inhalant abusers often target common household products for their intoxicating effects, including:
- Shoe polish
- Paint solvents
- Correction fluid
- Lighter fluid
- Nail polish remover
In addition, whippets are a popular inhalant. Like other inhalants, they have a non-drug-related use but are sometimes repurposed to give the user a high or psychoactive effect. Whippets are steel cylinders containing nitrous oxide, a chemical that dentists use before administering a Novocain injection or performing dental procedures.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, young children and adolescents most often abuse inhalants. As a 2011 Monitoring the Future study found, approximately 13 percent of 8th graders reported having abused an inhalant in their lifetime, compared to approximately 7.5 percent of 12th graders.
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health offers another reliable indication of the extent of inhalant abuse in America. According to the survey, 563,000 Americans ages 12 or older had taken an inhalant for the first time within the last 12 months of the survey. To further break down the picture of inhalant intake, the study showed that 0.5 percent of those in the 12-17 age group were current users of inhalants. Inhalants are the only drug type that is abused more by younger teenagers than older teenagers.
The study further revealed that among youth aged 12-13 and 14-15, 0.6 percent used inhalants in the month prior to the survey. In the 16-17 age group, inhalant use dropped down to 0.3 percent. Similarly, 0.3 percent of Americans in the 18-25 age category were current users of inhalants.
Getting Treatment for Inhalant Abuse
Compared to other abused substances, inhalants are unique in that they seldom cause a physical dependence. An essential component of treatment for inhalant abuse is to limit the user’s access to inhalants initially, which can be difficult as these products are readily available. For this reason, an inpatient treatment program may be a good option.
Psychological dependence on inhalants is treatable through behavioral therapy such as individual counseling, family counseling, and group therapy. Counseling can guide inhalant abusers to an awareness of the underlying causes of the abuse and educate them on the many dangers associated with this activity.
At FRN, we are committed to providing each of our clients with specialized recovery services tailored to their individual needs. Whether inhalant abuse is occurring on its own, or in combination with another mental health issue in a dual diagnosis situation, our experts can help you find a recovery plan that is tailored to your situation. Call us to learn more.
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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