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.