Drugs known as inhalants include a diverse variety of chemicals whose fumes cause intoxication when sniffed or “huffed.” Children and teenagers most frequently abuse inhalants by taking a common household chemical and breathing the fumes released through an open container, plastic bag or soaked cloth. Inhalants cause hallucinations and intense intoxication, and they can also cause sudden death, even among first-time users.
The History and Effects of Inhalants
There are several kinds of inhalants. Flammable liquids such as gasoline, propane and butane cause intoxication when huffed. Glue and paint thinner are inhalants, as is acetone, which is usually found in nail polish remover. Aerosol sprays, amyl nitrite and nitrous oxide also cause dangerous intoxication when sniffed.
This means inhalants are almost everywhere — they may even be in your fridge if you keep a whipped cream canister or in your desk if you have correction fluid. People who abuse inhalants can injure themselves by coming in contact with the substance and through the addictive physical effects produced by the high. Even helium balloons are dangerous inhalants.
Inhalants enter the bloodstream quickly, and the user can feels the effects within seconds. The high is short-lived, and many users continue huffing inhalants over the course of several hours to prolong the effects, a habit that increases the risk of overdose, addiction and death.
In addition to euphoria that sometimes occurs after inhaling, strong hallucinations can occur. The symptoms of intoxication include slurred speech, dizziness or lightheadedness, impaired coordination and unclear thinking. Vomiting and nausea are more common side effects. With prolonged abuse, more serious effects can often develop. These include unconsciousness and death.
Inhalants are not part of the federal drug classification known as scheduling. Their sale is also not restricted to minors, and anyone can legally buy dangerous inhalants, no matter what age.
Long Term Inhalants Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a federally funded entity that studies drug use in Americans, reports that inhalants are one of the few drugs used more frequently by younger adolescents than by older teens and adults. How young are inhalant abusers? NIDA notes that inhalant abuse is more common among middle school-age children than any other age range. That means a child as young as 12 could be sniffing a common household chemical.
More than 6 percent of all 8th graders used an inhalant in 2012, according to NIDA. Perhaps most alarmingly, children at this age are not aware that using an inhalant even one time can be fatal — 66 percent of 8th graders polled indicated that using an inhalant once or twice isn’t dangerous. Over 40 percent also felt that regular inhalant abuse isn’t harmful.
Inhalants usually contain multiple toxic chemicals, and many of these chemicals can permanently damage the brain. Abusing an inhalant over long periods damages a fatty tissue called myelin, which protects the nerves of the central nervous system. Nerves transmit messages via chemicals from the brain to the other parts of the body. That is why people who suffer nerve damage may have trouble walking, talking and moving — the brain is relaying the instructions, but the nerve cells won’t transmit the messages.
There are other, even more serious, symptoms of inhalant addiction and abuse. Heart and liver failure are common side effects of inhalants, and inhalants can inhibit the production of blood cells. They also damage the brain so seriously that simple tasks such as remembering where the car keys went or having a conversation becomes almost impossible. And the earlier a person begins abusing inhalants, the more likely developing addiction later in life becomes — this means addressing inhalant abuse as soon as it becomes a problem is essential.
The Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse
It’s often difficult to know with certainty whether or not a person is abusing an inhalant. With careful attention, however, it is possible to uncover distinct signs and symptoms. If you notice any of the following, someone you care about may be suffering from inhalants addiction:
- Breath or clothing that smells like chemicals
- A dried chemical substance on the nostrils or upper lip
- Difficulty communicating, remembering or thinking clearly
- Nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite
- Reduced cognitive abilities relating to attention and learning
- Irritability and depression
- Empty containers, or plastic or paper bags, in the bedroom trash
- An increase in time spent alone
- A staggering gait, slurring words or other physical signs of intoxication
- Denying, hiding or lying about inhalants abuse
- Ignored responsibilities, such as grades, chores and relationships
If you notice these symptoms, the time to get help is now.
Because adolescents and young teens typically use inhalants, getting help early is essential. Multiple independent research studies prove early substance abuse often leads to more severe addiction problems later in life. You also don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom before getting help. In fact, the earlier a person with inhalants addiction gets help, the better the treatment outcomes are. If you believe your loved one is using inhalants — even if he or she is not an adolescent — getting professional help is crucial.
Addiction experts and medical professionals agree that long term, individualized care provided in a comfortable setting offers people with addiction problems the best opportunity to achieve and sustain life-lasting sobriety. At 12 Keys Rehab, we help people fight substance abuse and addiction problems every day. Our rehabilitation center provides comprehensive holistic care in a warm, supportive environment. We only enroll limited number of clients at one time, assuring our ability to provide individualized treatment.
Our program combines a safe and thorough medically assisted detox, behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, addiction counseling and 12 Step care in a responsive recovery plan designed to match the needs of each individual client. We can even help you if rehab has been tried before, so don’t give up hope. If you want help, 12 Keys Rehab is here.
At 12 Keys Rehab, our qualified, experienced and compassionate staff members know that beating inhalants addiction is possible. Call us now for more information, and let us help you and your family find the path to abstinence.
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