There are many substances in the world that people can develop an addiction to. In fact, many household items that you wouldn’t think of have the ability to get a person high if not used in the right way. This is the case with many inhalants. Because many inhalants are common products that people have around their homes, inhalant abuse has become popular amongst youth. 

To prevent you or a loved one from developing an inhalant addiction, learn more about inhalants and the signs and effects of inhalant abuse and addiction. For those that are already struggling with inhalant abuse or addiction, we’ll teach you how to effectively address such a condition in this article. 

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants are chemical substances with vapors that are often found in household and workplace products. There are over 1,000 common household and workplace products that people can use and abuse as an inhalant drug. 

How People Abuse Inhalants

When people abuse inhalants by intentionally inhaling, or breathing in, their vapors, they’ll experience mind-altering effects that will get them high. Oftentimes, breathing in the fumes of inhalants will even affect an individual’s central nervous system in a way that slows down the way that the brain and bodily organs, such as the heart, function. When inhalants affect the central nervous system in a way that slows down the human brain and body, they act as depressant drugs. 

Categories of Inhalants

There are four major categories that all inhalants fall into. These categories are volatile solvents, aerosols, gases, and nitrites. 

Volatile Solvents

Volatile solvents are liquids that are often used around the house and workplace that vaporize at room temperature. Since volatile solvents are commonly used in one’s household and workplace, they’re easy to obtain and abuse. There are different types of volatile solvents. Some of these include:

  • Glues
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Degreasers
  • Paint thinners
  • Paint removers

  • Rubber cement
  • Nail polish removers
  • Dry cleaning fluids
  • Correction fluids
  • Felt tip markers


Aerosols are sprays that contain propellants and solvents in them. Many youth and adults use aerosol sprays to do everything from paint graffiti and pictures outside to help them maintain good body odor, to manage their hair, to help them cook. Due to all the common day-to-day uses of aerosol sprays, they too are easy to abuse. Examples of aerosol spray inhalants include:

  • Hair spray
  • Spray paints
  • Spray deodorant
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • Fabric protector spray


Any medical anesthetic gas or commercial gaseous substance that people use around their households or workplaces are gases that a person can practice inhalant abuse with. Medical anesthetic gases are gases that people often inhale when at some sort of medical or dental office. The purpose of inhaling medical anesthetic gases is usually to help reduce pain by making a person unconscious. Examples of medical anesthetic gases include:

  • Chloroform
  • Halothane
  • Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas)

It’s important to note that a person can also find nitrous oxide in whipped cream containers or propellant canisters. This is because nitrous oxide comes out of whipped cream containers and propellant canisters when a person pushes the nozzle of such containers or canisters to spray the substances inside. Since many children and teens love whipped cream and use different propellant canisters for different artistic projects, these are the people that are often found practicing inhalant abuse of such gases. 


Nitrites are chemical compounds in leather cleaners, liquid aromas, and room deodorizers. Other common names for nitrites include “poppers” or “snappers.” When inhaled, nitrites interact with the human body’s central nervous system in a way that causes it to relax and smooth muscles while also dilating blood vessels. Thus, in a way, nitrites act as depressant drugs. Because nitrites relax and smooth muscles while also dilating blood vessels, they also act as great tools of use for those with erectile dysfunction. Examples of nitrites include:

  • Cyclohexyl nitrite
  • Isoamyl (amyl) nitrite
  • Isobutyl (butyl) nitrite

Inhalant Abuse Data

Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

As we briefly mentioned earlier, inhalant abuse is mainly popular with youth. This is because inhalants are usually the first type of substance that teenagers can easily get their hands on. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 1.8 million people age 12 or older got high off of inhalant abuse in 2015. Of those 1.8 million people, 684,000 were between the ages of 12 and 17. 

Girls are reportedly more likely to practice inhalant abuse than boys are. People with poor socio-economic statuses, people with a history of abuse, and teens that don’t perform well in school are also more likely to practice inhalant abuse. Reports also show that the most common sources of inhalant abuse by youth are felt-tip pens and magic markers. 

Due to how popular inhalants are with teenagers, inhalant abuse and addiction should be taken seriously. This is especially true since inhalants can negatively affect a person just as much as any other substance. For example, frequently abusing inhalants and then suddenly stopping one’s use of the substance can cause a person to experience inhalant withdrawal symptoms. 

Examples of inhalant withdrawal symptoms include mood changes, excessive sweating, upset stomach, and problems sleeping. Inhalant abuse can even act as a gateway to abusing harder substances such as cocaine or opioids. 

How People Abuse Inhalants

People can practice inhalant abuse in many different ways. Common ways of abusing inhalants include breathing in the chemical vapors from the inhalants through one’s nose or mouth, sniffing or snorting the fumes from inhalant substances, spraying aerosols into one’s nose or mouth, and soaking a rag with inhalant chemicals and then placing that rag over one’s nose or mouth. 

Some people choose to inhale substances from helium-inflated balloons or paper bags to get a small high. Others will go as far as to pour inhalant substances over one’s shirt collar or sleeves so that they can periodically sniff it. While the high from a single sniff or dose of inhalants only lasts for a couple of minutes, many people will repeatedly sniff inhalants throughout the day to remain high. 

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

To know for sure if you or a loved one has an inhalant abuse problem, you must recognize the signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse. Because inhalants affect the human body so quickly after consumption, one can usually see signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse immediately. Common signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse include:

  • Sedation
  • A mild high
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations
  • Dilated pupils

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Loss of motor function
  • Facial rash and blistered skin

Bodily Damage Due to Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse can cause serious damage to one’s brain and body. When it comes to bodily inhalant damage, negative effects include:

  • Heart failure
  • Hearing loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss

  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Nose and mouth rash 
  • Peripheral nerve damage
  • Acoustic nerve and muscle damage

Another issue that can occur is bone marrow damage that can cause leukemia. Individuals may also experience cerebral cortex and cerebellum damage that can cause personality changes. Fatty tissue on the liver that can cause cirrhosis may also develop. Additionally, the blood cells may not be able to properly carry oxygen, which leads to oxygen deprivation

Brain Damage Due to Inhalant Abuse

Brain damage due to inhalant abuse can be particularly severe. This is especially true for adolescents that abuse inhalants, as their brains aren’t fully developed yet. When an undeveloped adolescent brain goes through extensive damage due to substances such as inhalants, it can cause changes that the brain permanently builds upon. Further negative effects that inhalant abuse can cause due to its interactions with the brain include:

  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Personality changes
  • Speaking problems
  • The development of learning disabilities

  • Issues with complex problem solving, organization, and planning
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle spasms

  • Tremors
  • Depression
  • Severe nosebleeds
  • Loss of sensation
  • Death

Treatment for Inhalant Abuse and Addiction

When a person suffers from inhalant abuse or addiction, he or she needs to attend detox and rehab. Practices during detox and rehab for an inhalant addiction may differ from those for addictions to other substances. 

Inhalant Detox

When attending detox for inhalant substances, it’s important for doctors and the other medical professionals and addiction specialists there to monitor your heart and brain. This is due to the numerous effects inhalants can have on the heart and brain. It’s important to note that Inpatient detox for inhalant addiction will likely last longer than other forms of inpatient detox. This is because inhalants stay inside a person’s body fat and thus take longer to detox from than most substances. Thus, inhalant detox will last for 30 days or more. Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can last for a month or longer and chances of relapsing from inhalants are high. Common inhalant withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Rapid pulse
  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety

  • Seizures
  • Hand tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Physical agitation
  • Excessive sweating

Inpatient Inhalant Addiction Treatment

A person that suffers from an addiction to inhalants can attend inpatient or outpatient rehab after detox depending on the severity of his or her addiction. Since inpatient forms of addiction treatment are the most intensive, people with severe inhalant addiction should attend inpatient rehab. 

Although inpatient rehab requires intensive therapy and addiction treatment and 24/7 monitoring, due to the short attention span of inhalant addicts, therapy sessions during inpatient inhalant rehab will likely only occur in 15-30 minute increments initially. As inhalant patients progress through their rehab programs and acquire better attention spans, the length of therapy sessions during inhalant rehab will slowly increase. 

Outpatient Inhalant Addiction Treatment

Inhalant addicts whose addictions are not too severe can attend outpatient inhalant rehab. There are varying forms of outpatient inhalant rehab that people can attend depending on the severity of their addictions. The most intensive form of all of the outpatient addiction treatment programs is partial hospitalization program treatment. This is because this form of outpatient addiction treatment occurs all day. 

The second most intensive form of outpatient inhalant rehab is intensive outpatient program treatment. This form of outpatient treatment occurs several hours a day, several days a week. The least intensive form of outpatient rehab that an inhalant addict can attend is standard outpatient addiction treatment. This form of treatment occurs for a couple of hours a day, once or twice a week. 

Therapy for Inhalant Addicts

Regardless of what form of inpatient or outpatient inhalant rehab a person attends, he or she must receive therapy to complete their addiction treatment program. There are varying forms of therapy that inhalant addicts can attend while in rehab. These include individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy. 

Receive the Best Detox and Addiction Treatment Services Here at Coastal Detox

Here at Coastal Detox, we understand that how one starts their addiction treatment journey has a huge impact on how a person’s addiction recovery journey will go. That’s why we go out of our way to incorporate the latest medical addiction treatment, holistic care, and clinical therapy within our drug and alcohol detox programs. At Coastal Detox, our goal is to service the mind, body, and soul of each and every patient as they go through detox. That way our patients will have a higher chance of success when they enter addiction treatment. 

If you’re looking to attend detox for inhalant abuse or addiction at a top-level detox center, then you must receive care here at Coastal Detox. Not only do we have a holistic method to treatment, but we also make sure that all of our services are clinically based. To ensure this, our staff is made up of a highly experienced and dedicated staff of doctors, nurses, therapists, CNAs, and behavioral health technicians, on top of our holistic treatment specialists. Thus, you can rest assured that you will receive the best care at our detox facility.
To learn more about Coastal Detox and the different services that our detox facility offers, feel free to contact us anytime. Our intake department is staffed around the clock and is ready to take your call. Call our team today!