Short and Long-Term Effects of Inhalants on the Brain

Short and Long-Term Effects of Inhalants on the Brain


The Deadly Effects of Inhalants

What Do Inhalants Do?

When someone huffs computer duster, does whip-its or any other inhalant, the effect on the brain is immediate, intense, and short-lived. The user feels drunk or dizzy, is unable to concentrate, and isn’t able to speak properly. The user may also hallucinate, black out, or even die. Inhalants can cause hostility, headaches, and rashes. Inhalant use can also cause sudden death when the chemical replaces oxygen in the lungs, essentially suffocating the individual.

Over time, the effects of inhalants on the user’s body adds up.[1] Long-term effects of inhalant abuse and addiction include:

-Muscle weakness


-Loss of coordination



-Brain damage

-Memory loss

-Hearing loss

-Bone marrow damage

-Heart failure

Long-term inhalant use has also been shown to damage the lungs, liver, and kidneys.

effects of inhalants

Why Inhalants Are so Dangerous

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.

A can of hairspray, whipped-cream, glue, gasoline, paint thinner, household chemicals…all of these can be huffed. For a group of kids who’re mildly bored, huffing glue might start to sound like an okay idea. This is especially true when they’ve found information about the high they produce on the internet.

Read about other legal gateway drugs like Kratom and Kava

The Real Short-Term Effects of Inhalants

What’s actually going on when someone huffs is hypoxia (the medical term for when the body is depleted of oxygen). Oxygen doesn’t just allow us to breathe, it keeps our brain functioning. Hypoxia is particularly damaging to the hippocampus, the part of our brain responsible for memory.

The effects of inhalants over a period of time can destroy myelin (the tissue that protects nerves). Nerves carry messages throughout our body and brain. When you couple hypoxia with the destruction of myelin, well, it’s no wonder that huffing damages basic motor functions like walking and talking.

Read about the dangerous effect of alcohol and “Wet Brain”

Why the Long-Term Effects of Inhalants are Often Overlooked

Inhalants abuse is tricky because they’re often viewed differently than drugs. A normal parent doesn’t look at a can of whipped-cream and see a heroin addict, but the reality is that inhalant abuse often leads to other drug abuse. Even if it never leads elsewhere, inhalant addiction itself is deadly.

The reality of huffing is that it can kill you. Sudden Death Syndrome (often called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome) and the short and long-term effects of inhalant use make them just as dangerous as any street drug.

The insanity of inhalant abuse lies in the short-term high. Within moments of getting high, the user has to start inhaling again. In doing so, users continually increases the amount of oxygen depleting chemicals in their body. The brain damage caused by such intense use is often irreversible. Inhalants are one of many drugs that need increased awareness as to their potential for harm and addiction.


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