Inhalants are chemical substances that can be breathed into the lungs to cause a euphoric or mind-altering effect. There are several types of inhalants, but they generally fall into one of four categories:
- Volatile solvents – These are liquids found in many household products that vaporize at room temperature. Some include paint thinners, glue, gasoline, or correction fluid.
- Aerosols – Sprays that contain inhalable solvents. These can also be found around the house and include spray paint, hair spray, and sprays used for fabric or cooking.
- Gases – Medical anesthetics make up the majority of this type of inhalant. Gases may include ether, chloroform, or nitrous oxide or “laughing gas.” Of these, nitrous oxide is the substance most abused, since it can be found in a number of products, including whipped cream dispensers.
- Nitrites – This is a special type of inhalant that can dilate blood vessels and relax muscles. Sometimes called “poppers” or “snappers,” these inhalants are sold in small bottles and deceptively labeled as “room odorizer” or “liquid aroma.”
Whatever the type of inhalant, they are generally breathed in through the nose or mouth to produce a “high.” The use of inhalants is also called “bagging” or “huffing.”
Dangerous Side Effects are Associated with Inhalants
Inhalants are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and give the user a high within seconds. The immediate effects are similar to those of alcohol; they can include slurred speech, dizziness, and euphoria. Other effects include lightheadedness and hallucinations.
These effects last only a short time, and users may try to make their high last longer by using more inhalants. This dangerous practice can cause users to lose consciousness, or worse. The concentrated chemicals in these products can cause rapid or irregular heart rate or even lead to fatal heart failure. Other dangerous effects can include:
- Asphyxiation or suffocation
- Convulsions or seizures
Call the Missouri Poison Center if You Suspect that Someone You Know is Abusing Inhalants
If you or someone close to you is abusing an inhalant, or if you have questions about these types of drugs, call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. Our specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and medical toxicologist can give you potentially life-saving information.