At their very core, inhalants work by depleting the body of oxygen. What makes inhalants so dangerous, beyond the numerous side effects, is that they’re accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The effects of inhalants can be quite detrimental to someone’s brain and long-term health. Because they’re so widely available, the more we know about the effects of inhalants and why people abuse them, the more we’ll be able to help those we know.
What are Inhalants?
The term inhalants refer to several substances that people can only use by inhaling. These substances can be solvents, aerosol sprays, gases, and nitrites. As you can see, these are products that are readily available at home or in the workplace. Things like glue, markers, cleaning fluids, and spray paints are all common inhalants.
However, these products are not meant for human consumption. Thus, they have psychoactive properties when inhaled. Most of the time, young children and teenagers use inhalants or experiment with inhalants. The only problem is that many of them move on to different drugs or alcohol as they get older.
How People Use Inhalants
Generally, people breathe in the fumes through their nose or mouth, sniffing, snorting, huffing, or bagging. Depending on the substance they’re using, they carry a different name. Most inhalants only produce a high that lasts a few minutes, which is why people continue to inhale over and over to maintain the experience.
Short-term Effects of Inhalants
Dangerously, most inhalants affect the central nervous system (CNS) and slow down brain activity. The short-term effects of inhalants are similar to alcohol, including slurred speech, lack of coordination, euphoria, and dizziness.
Sometimes, people feel light-headed or can even have hallucinations or delusions when using inhalants for long periods of time. With repeated inhalations, people feel less in control; they often start vomiting, feel drowsy, or have headaches that last a while.
Long-term Effects of Inhalants
On the other hand, the long-term effects of inhalants can be hazardous. While the long-term effects vary depending on the type of inhalant someone uses, most of these products can lead to conditions such as liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, bone marrow damage, nerve damage, behavioral development problems, and brain damage from cut-off oxygen flow to the brain.
Some inhalants like nitrites are misused to enhance sexual pleasure and performance, which can lead to unsafe sexual practices. This increases someone’s chances of spreading infectious diseases like hepatitis or HIV.
Can Someone Overdose on Inhalants?
In a nutshell, yes. Overdoses occur when someone uses too much of a substance and has a toxic reaction that can result in serious harmful symptoms or death. Some side effects of inhalants can cause seizures and coma.
Remember, these solvents and aerosol sprays are highly concentrated and they’re not meant for human consumption. When someone uses large amounts of these substances it can cause the heart to stop within minutes. This condition, also known as sudden sniffing death, or sudden death syndrome, can happen to even otherwise healthy young people the first time they use an inhalant.
Because these products are challenging to inhale, some people use paper or plastic bags to help them sniff more of the substance. They also use inhalants in closed areas. These pose a higher risk of death from suffocation.
Do Inhalants Lead to Addiction?
On rare occasions. The nature of inhalants is not addictive. However, repeated use of inhalants can lead to addictive behavior, a form of substance use disorder. The moment someone experiences health problems and fails to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home due to substance abuse, they could be struggling with an addiction.
Another way to see if someone struggles with inhalant addiction is to know if they experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. The most common inhalants withdrawal symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Problems sleeping
- Mood changes
Most likely, an addict will experience withdrawal symptoms and firmly believe they must continue their misuse of inhalants to avoid these symptoms.
Inhalants Addiction Treatment
It’s common for young children and teenagers who experiment with inhalants to move towards other substances. They might experiment with prescription drugs readily available at home, or perhaps try over-the-counter medications. Those already struggling with an active addiction will move towards illicit drugs they can find on the streets.
The key here is to tackle the addictive behavior and prevent further substance abuse. Those seeking treatment for inhalant misuse can find help in addiction treatment centers that offer comprehensive solutions.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, alongside other addiction treatment programs, can help patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the type of situations that lead to their inhalants misuse in the first place. The idea of CBT is to attack the addictive behavior and rewire the brain to understand the triggers that lead to addiction.
Having a motivational and supportive system by their side is critical for any recovering addict. Through 12-step meetings and group therapy sessions, people can navigate the ins and outs of addiction. Most researchers believe talking about shared struggles in a safe and controlled environment can be beneficial for those struggling with addiction.
It’s also important to note if there’s any underlying mental health condition that triggers the addiction. In many cases, children and teenagers that struggle with ADHD, anxiety, and depression will turn to these substances to self-medicate. Speaking with a dual diagnosis specialist that’s able to pinpoint both conditions is paramount for recovery. Through a dual diagnosis program, people will manage and evolve through treatment, tackling both conditions simultaneously to guarantee a better recovery.
Seek Help for Addiction to Inhalants
If you or someone you know is struggling with inhalant abuse, please reach out. The effects of inhalants can be life-threatening, even after the first use. Through our dual diagnosis programs at Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we can help people understand their addictive behavior and the underlying causes. We believe in offering customized addiction treatment plans that adapt to each person’s needs and experiences. Reach our admissions office today and ask about our addiction recovery programs.