Classification: None

Slang Names: Solvents, Glue, Laughing Gas, Whippitts, Gas, Nitrous, Blue Bottle, Liquid Incense, Room Deodorizer, Rush, Locker Room, Poppers, Snappers.

Methods of Use: Inhale, sniff

Dependence Potential: Possible addiction

What are Inhalants?

Inhalants are breathable substances that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) vapors. These substances include: solvents (model airplane glue, nail polish remover, lighter and cleaner fluids, gasoline, typewriter correction fluid); aerosols (hair spray, paints, paint thinners, cookware coating agents); and anesthetics (halothane and nitrous oxide or "laughing gas"). These chemicals are not usually considered drugs because they were developed for other legitimate purposes, however they can be dangerous when purposefully and excessively inhaled.

Two other popular inhalants are amyl nitrate and butyl nitrate. Amyl nitrate is used for heart patients and diagnostic purposes because it dilates the blood vessels and makes the heart beat faster. It is a clear yellowish liquid that is sold in a cloth-covered, sealed, bulb. The bulbs emit a popping or snapping sound when broken; thus they are nicknamed "poppers" or "snappers." Before 1979,amyl nitrate was available without a prescription, but as reports of abuse increased, prescriptions were required. Now, many users have begun to abuse butyl nitrate which is packaged in small bottles, often marked incense, and sold under a variety of names including "locker room" and "rush". The "high" from butyl nitrate lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. Immediate effects include flushed face, dizziness, decreased blood pressure followed by an increased heart rate and headache.

Glues: are commonly inhaled from a paper or plastic bag. Using the bag increases the intensity of the fumes but it also markedly increases the chances of suffocation;

Industrial solvents, cleaning solutions, and paint thinners: are generally inhaled directly from the container or by sniffing a cloth or placing a cloth in the mouth;

Gasoline:is usually inhaled directly from gas tanks;

Aerosols: may be inhaled directly, but some users try to separate the contents by straining the gases through a cloth.

Lighter and cleaner fluids, gasoline, typewriter correction fluid); aerosols (hair spray, paints, paint thinners, cookware coating agents); and anesthetics (halothane and nitrous oxide or "laughing gas").

Patterns of Inhalant Use

Young teenagers are more likely to abuse inhalants, because chemicals used are inexpensive and readily available. Inhalants are mostly taken by groups of young people, usually beginning as part of a fad;, and are administered in any one of several methods:

Inhalants in the Body

Chemical used for sniffing are all fat-soluble, organic substances that easily pass through the blood-barrier and are metabolized in the liver and kidneys. They produce effects that are similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body's functions. The "high" begins within minutes and lasts from 15 to 45 minutes. At low doses, users may feel slightly stimulated; at moderate amounts, they may feel less inhibited, less in control, light-headed and giddy; at high doses, a user can lose consciousness.

Short Term Effects of Inhalant Use


nhalant users may exhibit several adverse effects including:

nausea vomiting ringing in the ears sneezing abnormal heart rhythm nosebleeds feeling and looking tired coughing double vision bad breath irritation of the eyes poor judgement lack of coordination chest pain muscle and joint aches loss of appetite

How strong these effects are depends largely on the experience and personality of the user, how much is inhaled, and the specific substance used.

Long Term Effects of Inhalant Use

Extended use of inhalants can cause weight loss, fatigue and an electrolyte (salt) imbalance. Repeated use can permanently damage the nervous system, greatly reducing physical and mental abilities. Also, because inhalants are easily absorbed in the bloodstream and metabolized through the liver and kidneys, long-term sniffing can damage blood, bone marrow, the liver and the kidneys.

Deep breathing of vapors or extended use of inhalants during a short period of time may result in other serious effects such as losing self-control, violent behavior, unconsciousness or death. Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of solvents or aerosols can produce heart failure and instant death. High concentrations of inhalants can also cause death from suffocation by displacing the oxygen in the lungs. Inhalants can also depress the central nervous system so much that breath slows down until it stops.

Tolerance - the need for higher and higher doses of the drug to produce the same effect seems to develop quickly among inhalant users. As users mature, they may seek other substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and LSD, in order to achieve that high.

Recent studies also indicate that sniffing solvents during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Labeled as Fetal Solvent Syndrome, this condition exhibits such classic symptoms as a small head. deep-set eyes, small midface, disfigured nose and ears, and stubby fingertips.

The primary solvent responsible for these defects is toluene which is found in aerosol spray paints, gasoline and many other popular products.

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Use:

Odor on breath and clothes Runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes Drowsiness Poor muscle control

Presence of paraphernalia such as: bags or rags, discarded aerosol cans or whipped cream chargers (signs of nitrous oxide use) or small bottles (signs of butyl nitrate use)

Source: Valencia Community College Project Infusion Module, Orlando, FL. Reprinted with permission.

The Low Down on Inhalants.

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