Initially, the term “inhalants” may be misleading. After all, many illegal and legal substances are inserted through the nose and mouth to produce certain effects. In this case, however, “inhalants” refer to a distinctive class of drugs that are derived from aerosols or gases and can inflict serious and sometimes fatal side effects if consumed. On a more disturbing note, many of these substances can be found in household items such as felt pens, spray paint, or whipped cream dispensers. Even more frightening is the fact that inhalants are one of the most popular drugs used by older children and teens.

Inhalants are a group of chemicals that are found in products that are commonly used at home or in the workplace. The most common products include:

  • Solvents: paint thinner, lighter fluid, gasoline
  • Aerosols: spray paint, hair spray, deodorant, cleaning spray, cooking spray
  • Nitrites: fragrances and odorizers
  • Gases: propane, whippets (whipped cream bottles), chloroform, ether, nitrous oxide

The truth of the matter is that inhalants are deadly and highly addictive. When consumed through huffing, these chemicals produce a psychotropic effect on the central nervous system, and users may experience a sense of euphoria (described as being similar to being drunk). Short-term users will feel a sudden burst of energy (a high) and a sensation of dizziness. Long-term abusers can experience hallucinations, delusions, and extensive vomiting.

Health experts warn that extensive use of inhalants can result in a variety of near-fatal symptoms:

  • damage to bone marrow
  • loss of hearing
  • brain damage and behavioral issues (caused by lack of oxygen)
  • damage to the kidneys and liver
  • risk of AIDS/HIV (brought on by unsafe sexual activity caused by nitrates)

Furthermore, people who stop using inhalants may experience severe withdrawal symptoms ranging from mood swings to changes in appetite, as well as lack of sleep.

Research indicates that approximately 11% of 12th graders in United States schools have attempted to use inhalants, with addictive tendencies increasing between the ages of 14 and 15. Even more disturbing, some children begin using inhalants when they are 5 years old, and early onset symptoms cannot be successfully diagnosed by pediatricians.

A CLOSER LOOK AT INHALANTS

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