How Addictive Are Inhalants?

While the peak of inhalant misuse was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it is still a potentially dangerous issue — especially among younger people. Our guide will explain the effects and risks of inhalants and how to get help for yourself or a loved one.

What Are Inhalants?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) define inhalants as products that are not typically used medicinally or for their psychoactive effects but used in a manner to achieve some euphoric or psychoactive effect by inhaling their fumes or byproducts.

Inhalants are often used by younger people who inhale the byproducts or fumes from many different common products or alcohol. Often, this process is referred to as “huffing.”

There are several different classes of substances that are considered to be inhalants:

Volatile solvents: flammable products that can be inhaled to achieve psychoactive effects, including:

  • Any gases, such as helium, butane, or propane, that are inhaled for their psychoactive effects.
  • Aerosol products, such as hair sprays, deodorants, air fresheners, and numerous other household products.
  • Cleaning agents, including spot removers, degreasers, fluids for dry cleaning, etc.
  • Solvents, such as paint thinner, lighter fluid, gasoline, nail polish remover, etc.
  • Adhesives, such as glue or rubber cement.
  • Food products, including cooking spray, vegetable spray, whipped cream in cans, etc.

Paint products: sometimes incorporated under the category of aerosols; includes spray paint, paint in cans, markers, etc.

Nitrite room deodorizers.

Anesthetic products, such as chloroform, nitrous oxide, etc.

The Effects of Using Inhalants

The initial effects associated with the use of most inhalants are very similar to the effects associated with intoxication from alcohol use. Continued inhaling of the substance in an effort to extend these effects becomes far more intense and dangerous.

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