Inhalant Abuse Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

Inhalant Abuse


Inhalant Abuse has become a prevalent trend among young people due to its low cost and ease of access. Inhalants are composed of volatile substances found in industrial or household products.  They are inhaled to produce feelings of intoxication.  These products are not intended to be used this way by the manufacturers.  These are not to be confused with medically prescribed inhalers, nebulizers, or breathing treatments.

As such, inhalants are not often what is expected when it comes to typical drug use.  However, because they are everyday items that are easier to hold than other illicit substances, they are more commonly used by young people.  Some common inhalants include:

Inhalant Abuse.
They are inhaled to produce feelings of intoxication. 
  • Propane  
  • Butane  
  • Air Fresheners
  • Whip Cream Canisters 
  • Hair Spray  
  • Freon  
  • Cleaning Products 
  • Aerosol Deodorants
  • Correction Fluid
  • Paint Thinners
  • Solvents   
  • Spray Paint
  • Nitrates
  • Other Aerosols
  • Markers 
  • Glue 
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Symptoms Of Inhalant Abuse 

Effects produced by inhalants tend to be very short.  Due to this, people will often use them repeatedly over a short period to make the feeling last longer.  The longer and more often you use inhalants, the greater the risk of developing adverse side effects and addictive tendencies. 

Symptoms of inhalant use can range from mild to severe.  These symptoms can often be short-term and resolve on their own.  But with repeated use, symptoms can lead to long-lasting or permanent effects on the mind and body, potentially leading to death. 

Common Inhalant Withdrawal Symptoms 

Symptoms of inhalant withdrawal are usually mild, though they can be severe in some cases.  Typical withdrawal symptoms are more psychological than physical.  However, since inhalants are central nervous system suppressants, stopping use can lead to unpleasant physical symptoms.  The most common of these symptoms are headache, anxiety, nausea, and cravings. In addition, people suffering from more severe addictions may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:  

Common Withdrawal Symptoms  

  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety, Depression, and Psychosis
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia 
  • Mood Changes
  • Outbursts
  • Irritability 
  • Poor Memory/difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive Sweating or Body Chills 
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Seizures/Convulsions

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dizziness/Giddiness 
  • Hallucinations/Delusions
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Hypoxia 
  • Limb spasms/seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of smell, hearing, or vision 
  • Damage to the major organs in the body

Behavioral Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Loss of inhibitions or more excellent Risk-taking Behaviors 
  • Belligerence, Irritability, Violence, and Mood Swings 
  • Depression or Becoming Withdrawn
  • Difficulties with learning and concentrating
  • Apathy 

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What Is Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SSD)?

Sudden sniffing death syndrome (SSD) occurs from inhalant use, leading to cardiac arrest or heart failure.  This can happen the first time a person tries inhalants or any time after that.  Young people are the most common users of inhalants and are therefore the most at risk of experiencing SSD. 

Methods for inhaling fumes that can lead to sudden sniffing death syndrome include:

  • Sniffing or inhaling straight from the container 
  • Huffing (by soaking a rag in the inhalant) 
  • Bagging (by inhaling fumes sprayed into a plastic bag) 
  • Whippits (using a unique canister or balloon to inhale nitrous oxide)
  • Spraying aerosol sprays directly into the nose or mouth 

What Causes Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome?

Most deaths caused by sudden sniffing death syndrome are due to cardiac arrest caused by lack of oxygen.  The heart needs oxygen to function correctly; many inhalants inhibit this from happening.  Most deaths caused by sudden sniffing death syndrome are due to cardiac arrest caused by lack of oxygen.  The heart needs oxygen to function correctly; many inhalants inhibit this from happening. 

Negative Affects of Inhalant Abuse on the Body

Most inhalants act directly on the nervous system to produce specific effects on the mind and body.  Inhalant abuse can cause extreme harm to the brain, liver, kidneys, heart, and other vital organs in the body.  The damage can be permanent and, in some cases, fatal. 

Short-Term Effects

Some short-term adverse effects that inhalant abuse can cause include:

  • Slurred Speech
  • Inability to coordinate movement
  • Hallucinations or Delusions
  • Hostility or Irritability 
  • Impaired Judgment and riskier behavior taking 
  • Extreme Headaches
  • Rashes around the nose and mouth
  • Loss of Consciousness 

Long-Term Effects

Some long-term adverse effects of inhalant abuse include:

  • Depression 
  • Lack of coordination and control of motor skills 
  • Memory impairment and difficulty learning new things 
  • Mood Swings and Violent Outbursts 
  • Hearing or Vision Loss
  • Irregular or Rapid Heartbeat 
  • Tremors or Muscle Spasms 
  • Seizures or Convulsions 
  • Coma 

Permanent Effects

Permanent adverse effects can result from using inhalants.  Some of these include:

  • Damage to nerve fibers, the heart, liver, kidney, and bone marrow 
  • Brain damage leading to memory impairment and decreased mental functioning 
  • Asphyxiation, suffocation, or heart failure leading to death 

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Are Inhalants Addictive?

Inhalants have the potential to become very addictive.  As a result, people who use inhalants can develop both psychological and physical dependence on them.  This can happen relatively quickly or over a more extended period.  Addiction to inhalants is severe and should not be treated lightly.  However, inhalants are typically less addictive than many other drugs, including opioids, benzodiazepines, and other narcotics. 

Negative Affects of Inhalant Abuse on the Brain

Over time, chemicals found in inhalants wear down the protective sheath of the brain.  This can cause loss of brain tissue and permanent brain damage.  It is also why the risk of adverse side effects increases with the increasing usage of inhalants.  Some potential adverse effects that inhalants can have on the brain include:

  • Learning Disabilities  
  • Decline or Loss of Problem-solving capabilities 
  • Personality Changes
  • Disruption of both fine and gross motor skill functioning
  • Issues with memory 
  • Difficulties with speech

How Dangerous is Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome?

Sudden sniffing death syndrome is hazardous. As implied in the name, this syndrome is typically fatal if experienced. Unfortunately, this can happen very quickly and without warning, whether it is a person’s first time trying inhalants or if they have been abusing these substances for years. Sudden sniffing death syndrome is so dangerous because of the lack of oxygen it causes in the bloodstream. This can lead to death so quickly and suddenly that an affected person may still hold the can in their hand when their heart stops. Any time you use inhalants, you are essentially taking a chance with your life.

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Can You Prevent Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome? 

The only natural way to prevent sudden sniffing death syndrome is by not using inhalants in any way. Unlike many other forms of drugs, there is no “safe” amount of inhalants to take. These chemicals are not meant to be used for this purpose. However, this should not take inhalants lightly. Young people with greater self-esteem and self-assurance are less likely to use inhalants.

Therefore, it should target prevention efforts at raising children’s self-esteem, self-worth, and self-image while making them aware of the risk that sudden sniffing death syndrome poses from inhalant use. Parents should also talk to their children about the danger of using inhalants. Since the necessary ingredients for creating inhalants are present in almost every home, it is essential to deter the substance use of these everyday items.

Treatment for Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome

Sudden sniffing death syndrome is fatal. Therefore, treatment should be aimed at prevention and minimizing substance use of potentially dangerous chemicals. This syndrome can happen the first time a person uses an inhalant, but the risk increases the more they use them. Therefore, prevention is crucial for this drug addiction as it can do little if sudden sniffing death syndrome occurs.

Treatment for Inhalant Use & Addiction

Getting impatient and outpatient treatment are both excellent options for inhalant addiction or use.  Family counseling may be a good option as people using may be young, and addiction is a family disease.  Addiction rates for inhalants are much lower than other drugs, but it is still a severe condition requiring medical attention.  Given that addiction to inhalants is often more psychological rather than physical dependence, counseling is an excellent option to seek.  This can help address the underlying reasons for the inhalant use and subsequent addiction and will help prevent sudden sniffing death syndrome from occurring sometime down the road.

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope.  We work as an integrated team providing support through inhalant abuse and other aspects of treatment.  Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life.  Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists.  Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

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