Commonly found in household or workplace products such as glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, markers, gasoline, paint and hairspray, teens abuse inhalants by sniffing and inhaling the fumes and gases from these easily obtained products to gain an easy “high.” In 2014, inhalant use was most common among adolescents ages 12 to 17, with about 149,000 youths who reported they were current inhalant users, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Four categories of inhalants are abused by adolescents and young children, which include volatile solvents, aerosols, gases and nitrates, and are commonly referred to as “poppers” or “snappers,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Many inhalants that are abused by young people can be found virtually anywhere:

  • Art and stationary supplies – ink, paints, correction fluid, rubber cement and finishes, glues, felt-tip markers and aerosol computer cleaning products
  • Beauty supplies – nail polish and its removers, deodorants and hair spray
  • 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 availability of inhalants, it’s easy for anyone to obtain and abuse these supplies. Due to their cheapness and accessibility, it is not surprising that the majority of inhalant abusers are teens.

Methods of abuse

Commonly referred to as “huffing” or taking whippets, the most 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

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 (e.g., alcohol). Some of the side effects of inhalant use include:

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

Health consequences

Inhalant abuse can have serious short- and long-term consequences on teens’ health, and regular use can lead to damage of nearly all organs in the body. Some of the harmful consequences of inhalant abuse include:

  • Choking and throat pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Freezing of the lungs and/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

Sudden sniffing death” is also a dangerous consequence of inhalant abuse that results in heart failure in a matter of minutes, reported the NIDA. It is obvious that these readily available products can cause detrimental physical and mental effects in teenagers.

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Inhalants Withdrawal Symptoms

Inhalant addiction is not common; however, it is possible for teens who repeatedly abuse inhalants to develop a physical and psychological addiction to them. The presence of inhalant addiction and abuse can be very difficult to ascertain, because inhalants do not show up in drug tests; this can also make teen inhalant treatment very difficult.Bottom of Form

Teens can, however, experience inhalants withdrawal symptoms that last up to several weeks, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC). Withdrawal symptoms of inhalants include:

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

Treatment for inhalant abuse at Rancho San Diego

Inhalant treatment at Sovereign Health’s Rancho San Diego facility for adolescents ages 12 to 17 years old offers highly individualized and comprehensive addiction treatment programs to teenagers dealing with inhalants abuse and addiction. Our expert staff is well-versed in even the most obscure substances, such as Freon and aerosol, and possesses the experience and skill set needed to help patients with any form of addiction achieve and maintain a lasting recovery.

If you suspect that your teen or a loved one has developed a substance use disorder due to inhalants, feel free to contact us toll-free at our 24/7 helpline to find out more about Sovereign Health’s inhalant treatment options at our adolescent program in Rancho San Diego.

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