Teen Inhalant Abuse

Invisible and volatile substances, inhalants are commonly found in household or workplace products, such as glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, markers, gasoline, paint, air freshener and hairspray. Teens abuse inhalants by sniffing and inhaling the fumes and gases from these easily obtained products to gain a high.

As per statistics, in 2016, current use of inhalants was more common among adolescents than any other age group. An estimated 600,000 people (aged 12 or above) used inhalants with about 149,000 adolescents (aged 12 to 17) as current users of inhalants.

The four categories of inhalants abused by adolescents and young children include volatile solvents, aerosols, gases and nitrates, and are commonly referred to as poppers or snappers.

Here are some of the commonly abused inhalants:

  • Art and stationery supplies – ink, paints, correction fluid, rubber cement and finishes, glues, felt-tip markers and aerosol computer cleaning products
  • Beauty supplies – nail polish and removers, deodorants and hairspray
  • Automotive supplies – brake fluid, gasoline and spray lubricants
  • Cooking supplies – whipped cream dispensers (called whippets), olive oil and vegetable oil sprays
  • Cleaning supplies – aerosol air fresheners, leather cleaners, keyboard dusters and deodorizers
  • Other household and commercial products – paint thinners or removers, contact cement, varnishes, dry-cleaning fluids, lighter fluid, degreasers, butane lighters and propane tanks
  • Medical products – medical anesthetics such as nitrous oxide or laughing gas, chloroform, halothane, butyl nitrite and amyl nitrite

With the easy availability and low cost of the inhalants, anyone can obtain and abuse these supplies. It is not surprising that the majority of the abusers are teens and young adults.

Methods of abuse

Inhalants can be sniffed, snorted or inhaled. Teens even inhale the fumes from substances sprayed. Commonly referred to as huffing or taking whippets, another prevalent form of inhalant abuse involves sniffing carbon dioxide and aerosol from pressurized cans. Another deadly practice involves siphoning Freon, a coolant used in air-conditioning units and refrigerators. Freon is inhaled, usually with the aid of a paper bag, container or rag.

Side effects of inhalant abuse

When teens sniff and inhale the fumes from these volatile products, they can experience mind-altering effects. Most inhalants depress the central nervous system (CNS), but in a much different way than other CNS depressants like alcohol.

Here are some of the side effects of inhalant use:

  • Euphoria
  • Slurred speech
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Headaches

Health consequences of inhalant abuse

Also known as volatile substance abuse, solvent abuse, sniffing, huffing and bagging, inhalant abuse can have serious short- and long-term consequences on teens’ health, and regular use can damage nearly all the organs of the body.

Here are some of the harmful health consequences of inhalant abuse:

  • Choking and throat pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Freezing of the lungs or esophagus
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Nervous system and brain damage
  • Suffocation
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Lingering headaches
  • Drowsiness lasting for several hours
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Vascular collapse
  • Hypertension
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Heart attack
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Bizarre dreams
  • Death

While it is obvious that these readily available products can cause detrimental physical and mental effects in teenagers, one of the dangerous consequences is “sudden sniffing death” that results in heart failure in a matter of minutes. It can happen to a first-time user who may be otherwise healthy.

Withdrawal symptoms of inhalant abuse

Inhalant addiction is not common but, it is possible for teens who repeatedly abuse inhalants to develop a physical and psychological dependence and addiction to them. As inhalant abuse does not show up in drug tests, detecting the presence of addiction can be quite difficult that can make the treatment very difficult.

Once dependent, a user may experience severe withdrawal symptoms on its abrupt stoppage. Some of the withdrawal symptoms can last for up to several weeks.

Here are some of the common withdrawal symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Cravings
  • Nervousness
  • Chills
  • Abdominal pain
  • Hand tremors/shaking
  • Headaches
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

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Treatment for inhalant abuse

A comprehensive treatment for inhalant abuse consists of a medically supervised detoxification treatment at certified inhalant detox centers that is followed by counseling and life-skills training. The first step in addiction treatment, detox program helps get rid of the toxins and chemicals from the body, manage the withdrawal symptoms and prepare the body for further treatment.

A successful detox is usually followed by behavioral therapies to help identify the root cause of addiction, handle drug cravings and help patients effectively transition back into the community.

Why choose Sovereign Health

Inhalant treatment at Sovereign Health’s Rancho San Diego facility for adolescents aged 12 to 17 years comprises highly individualized and comprehensive recovery programs to treat inhalant abuse and addiction. Our expert staff is well-versed with the methodologies, and possesses the experience and skill set needed to help patients with any form of addiction.

Addiction treatment at our reputed centers combines inhalant detox treatment along with clinically proven therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), solution-focused therapy (SFT), psychodynamic therapy, and experiential therapies like yoga, meditation, art activities and music therapy.

If you suspect that your teen or a loved one is engaged in inhalant abuse and has developed physical or mental problems, feel free to contact us at our 24/7 helpline number to find out more about Sovereign Health’s treatment modalities. You can even chat online with our representatives for further assistance.

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