Inhalant Addiction Abuse
There are over 1400 potentially abusable products on the market today. Products which when used for their intended purpose are safe, but when abused for a “high,” can and often are, deadly. These products that were never meant for human consumption (butane, fabric protector, gasoline, spray paint, hair spray, markers, air freshener, and glue) are just a few of the products used as DRUGS, because of their nearly immediate psychoactive effects.
Because inhalant abuse in most cases involves legitimate products, traditional supply-side “war on drug” approaches do not apply, and the public backlash against products involved in publicized inhalant abuse incidents or deaths is often substantial.
The problem has been overlooked and underestimated! It is a tragedy that has no boundaries by geography, race, economic circumstances, or gender. The profile is broad, and the impact is devastating. Often, inhalant abuse is only considered to affect young children and teens, but inhalant abuse is increasing in popularity with adults. Not only are cases involving periodic inhalers escalating, but so are the number of chronic abusers.
Inhalant abuse is, in fact, the only form of substance abuse on the rise today among adolescents. Experimenters tend to be primarily between the ages of 7 and 17, and sometimes as young as 4 or 5 years of age but are highest among eighth graders. Nearly 10 percent of eighth graders surveyed reported using inhalants during the past year. Inhalant abuse ranks fourth among high school students, behind alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. One in ten adolescents, nationwide, have tried or are currently abusing inhalants.
Inhalant abuse has caused a significant increase in the overall mortality rate due to sudden death, suicide, or accidents after inhaling. In fact, the incidence of death in the youth population is rising at an alarming rate.
Hopefully, experimentation is short-lived; however, chronic abuse may develop. The seriousness of the problem becomes apparent when one finds the continued inhalation of solvents can result in permanent brain damage or even death.
Why Do People turn to Inhalants?
Several reasons can be cited for the increasing use of inhalants:
- Products are inexpensive, if not free
- Products are extremely accessible
- Products are legal to buy
- Some states do not have enforceable laws
- Course of the intoxication and the “high” can be controlled
- Public is generally uninformed of the dangers
Reasons for abusing inhalants are extremely different from any other drug:
- Most other drugs can be costly
- Abusers do not need special contacts or have to “hit the streets” to obtain inhalants.
Reasons given by youth for using inhalants:
- Ability to control high
- Instant gratification
- Easier to conceal
- Police “won’t do anything”
- Dizzy “out there” feeling
- Better than LSD, other drugs
Unfortunately, 1400 products cannot be controlled or banned, unlike most other sources of “highs”. Very few people understand the detrimental effects of inhalants on the human body or that abuse of inhalants can be lethal.
Effects Of Inhalants
Inhalants are commonly known as Glue, Kick, Bang, Sniff, Huff, Poppers, Whippets, and Texas Shoeshine.
Inhalants are violated substances of fumes that come from products such as glue or paint thinner. These substances can be abused by sniffing or huffing the products to cause a high. Inhalants affect the brain with great speed, and they keep oxygen from reaching the lungs. Over the years with animal and human research inhalants have been shown to be extremely toxic. The most significant toxic effect from chronic exposure to inhalants is the widespread and long-lasting damage to the brain and other parts of the bodies nervous system. The intoxication produced by inhalants usually lasts only a few minutes, so, therefore, users often try to extend their high by continuing to inhale repeatedly over several hours, increasing their risk.
In addition to the physical and mental health problems, current research shows that inhalant use is associated with the many symptoms of depression. The same research also showed that depressed teenagers were more than three times as likely to start using inhalants than teens with no symptoms of depression. It is also true that some teens often started using inhalants before depression ever began.
Types of Abused Inhalants
- Adhesives- Glues and special elements
- Aerosols- Spray Paint, Computer Dust Removers, Hair Spray, Deodorant, Air Fresheners
- Cleaning Agents- Dry Cleaning Fluid, Spot Remover, Degreasers
- Food Products- Whipped Cream Aerosols
- Solvents and Gases- Paint Thinner, Paint Stripper, Nail Polish Remover, Correction Fluid, Lighter Fluid, Gasoline
Effects Using Inhalants
One thing that all inhalants have in common is that they contain chemicals that are not meant for people to consume. So why would anyone want to breathe these toxic chemicals on purpose? Just like the users of other drugs, inhalant abusers try to get “high” from the chemicals.
The effects of inhalants usually only last a few minutes, unless user inhales repeatedly. At first, inhalants have a stimulating effect. If the users continue inhaling, they may feel dazed, dizzy, and have trouble walking. It is also common for users to get aggressive or think they see things that are not there (hallucinating). When using stronger chemicals or repeated inhaling, users can pass out, and sudden death can also be caused by inhalants.
When someone uses an inhalant, large amounts of TOXIC chemicals enter the lungs and pass from the bloodstream into the user’s brain. While in the brain they damage and kill brain cells. It takes at least two weeks for the body to get rid of some of the chemicals contained in inhalants. Inhalants exit the body mainly through exhaling, and this is why an inhalant users breath often smells like chemicals. Inhalants also pass out of a users body through urination.
Short-term Effects of Using Inhalants are:
- Loss of Balance
- Headaches, Nausea, and Vomiting
- Slurred and Slow Speech
- Mood Changes
When inhalants are used of time they can cause more serious damage such as:
- Short Term Memory Loss
- Muscle Spasms
- Hearing Loss
- Loss of Concentration
- Permanent Brain Damage
- and even DEATH!
Inhalants effect your brain with more speed and force that many other substances. This can cause irreversible physical and mental damage to a person before they even know what happened to them.
Because inhalants starve the body of oxygen, they force the heart to beat irregularly. This irregular beating is more rapid and can be very dangerous to your body.
People who use inhalants can experience symptoms of nausea and nosebleeds. It is common for people to lose their sense of hearing or smell. Chronic use of inhalants can lead to loss of muscle, reduced muscle tone and strength.
Inhalants could kill you the very first time that you use them. They can kill you instantly by suffocation, choking on your vomit, or having a heart attack.
How to tell if a person has been using inhalants?
While there is no way to rid a home of certain inhalants because they are necessary for living, there are many ways to tell if someone is abusing them. It can be tough to tell sometimes, or hard to distinguish between other drugs. There are some signs that you can look for, and if they have one or more of these warning signs it is likely he or she may be using inhalants.
- Slurred Speech
- Unusual Breath Odor
- Drunk, Dizzy, or Dazed Looking Appearance.
- Paint Stains On Face
- Chemical Smell On Clothing
- Runny Nose
- Red Eyes
Adverse Health Effects
These compounds (called volatile organic compounds or VOCs) are highly lipophilic, which explains their distribution to organs rich in lipids such as the brain and liver. After being distributed to these fatty tissues, these volatile compounds are usually metabolized by the liver to water soluble compounds and then eliminated through the kidneys.
The adverse health effects of both acute and chronic inhalant use/abuse are numerous. They can be from acute effects on the heart, lungs, kidneys, and muscle to severe chronic effects on the brain.
VOCs can produce cardiac arrhythmias (disturbances of heart rhythm) resulting in sudden death. A sudden fright, exertion or another source of stress causing the release of adrenaline, will then cause sudden death.
Certain VOCs, solvents, may cause a dangerous lowering of the body’s potassium, through their effects on the kidneys. Extremely low levels of potassium may occur, resulting in muscle damage, kidney failure, and cardiac arrhythmias.
What to do in an Emergency Situation
- Call 911
- Check airway and breathing
- If patient not breathing – apply artificial respiration
- Check patient’s carotid pulse
- If patient vomits – turn head to side
- If in an enclosed space – ventilate the area
- Notify parents or loved one
- Remove the substance and hold for identification. In some situations, this might be the first thing to do.
IF DISORIENTED AND/OR IN A DANGEROUS SITUATION
- Do not confront
- Ventilate area
- Move to fresh air if necessary
- Stay with person until recovered
- When lucid, discuss situation
- Notify parents and/or other professionals
- Remove substance and hold for identification