What you need to know about Inhalants

What is an inhalant?

Inhalants are ordinary household products that are inhaled or sniffed in order to produce a quick, temporary high.

What does an inhalant look like?

Hundreds of household products can be misused as inhalants. Common inhalants are aerosol products such as spray paint, whipped cream, cooking spray and hair spray; model airplane glue; nail polish remover; cleaning fluids; gasoline; fabric protector; and Freon.

How are inhalants used?

In order to get high, inhalants can be sniffed directly from the container, inhaled from balloons filled with nitrous oxide, sprayed directly into the mouth or nose, “bagged” (inhaled from a paper or plastic bag), or “huffed” (placing an inhalant-soaked rag, sock or roll of toilet paper in the mouth).

Effects of inhalants

The effects of inhalants are felt within seconds and only last a few minutes. For this reason, abusers will try to prolong their high by continuing to inhale repeatedly over the course of several hours.

Physical effects include:
* Intoxication, similar to alcohol intoxication
* Slurred speech
* Inability to control movements
* Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
* Nausea and vomiting
* Drowsiness and lingering headaches for hours after use

Psychological effects include:
* Confusion
* Delusions
* Hallucinations

Long-term effects include:
* Compulsive use
* Mild withdrawal symptoms
* Weight loss
* Muscle weakness
* Disorientation
* Inattentiveness
* Lack of coordination
* Irritability
* Depression

Consequences of using inhalants

Users who seek to prolong their high through repeated inhaling can suffer loss of consciousness, heart failure and death. A syndrome knows as “sudden sniffing death” can result from a single session of inhaling. Inhalant abuse can also cause death by asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions or seizures, coma, choking, and fatal accidents suffered while intoxicated.

Chronic exposure to inhalants can lead to long-lasting damage to the organs, brain and parts of the nervous system. This damage can manifest itself as dementia, difficulty coordinating movements, limb spasms and loss of feeling, hearing and vision.

Inhalant Facts and Statistics

* In 2007, 8.3 % of 8th graders, 6.6% of 10th graders and 3.7% of 12th graders abused inhalants at least once. (MTF, 2007)
* About 3.0 percent of children have tried inhalants by the time they reach the fourth grade. (NIDA)
* 55% of deaths linked to inhalant abuse are caused by Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.