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What Are Inhalants? Are They Addictive?

Many tweens, teens, and young adults can experiment with various inhalants when looking for a quick “high.” Part of what makes inhalants so enticing is they are readily available. In most cases, they are sold legally, making them easily obtainable by younger people. As such, you may be wondering, “Are inhalants addictive?”

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants include a broad spectrum of substances consisting of various chemicals that can induce the sensations of being “high.” Inhalants can cause hallucinations, psychoactive experiences, mind-numbing effects, and dizziness when misused. 

Furthermore, inhalants refer to substances whose primary means of misuse is by inhaling them. When injected or ingested orally, they can be highly toxic and result in severe consequences, including death.  

Types of Inhalants Misused

When one thinks of inhalants, several products come quickly to mind: magic markers, nail polish remover, model building glue, and cans of whipped cream. In general, inhalants consist of aerosol sprays, solvents, and gases and fall into one of several different categories as follows:

Household Inhalants

Household inhalants are products that are easily found in the home, such as cleaning supplies, spray paint, glues, nail polish, nail polish remover, correction fluids, and markers.

Industrial Inhalants

Industrial inhalants include various chemicals and products like gasoline, paint thinners, paint removers, dry cleaning fluid, propane, and cooking sprays. 

Medical Inhalants

Medical inhalants are used for medical purposes. Nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas, sedates dental patients. Other common medical inhalants include anesthesia, chloroform, rubbing alcohol, and ether-alcohol.

Nitrite Inhalants

Better known as “poppers,” nitrates include amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, and isobutyl nitrite. Nitrites are usually sold as leather cleaners and room deodorizers. 

Are Inhalants Addictive?

Inhalants act quickly on the central nervous system and the brain to cause euphoric, mind-altering, and psychoactive effects. Inhalants slow the body’s responses and mimic the effects of alcohol intoxication.

The only exception is nitrites. These act more like a stimulant to elevate the body’s heart rate and blood flow. They also increase hypersensitivity and excitability. Therefore, they are frequently misused to enhance sexual experiences. 

Regardless of the type of inhalant being misused, if one enjoys the sensations and feelings they experience, the brain remembers inhalant use as a positive behavior. Continued misuse of inhalants will eventually cause the brain to crave them more often. This means that inhalants are addictive.

Furthermore, successive misuse of inhalants due to their short-lasting effects can cause individuals to feel less inhibited where they are willing to engage in riskier behaviors without any concerns about the consequences. 

Dependence on inhalants can develop after misusing them daily for a period of time. Many people find they cannot get through their day without experiencing the “high” sensations they enjoy while under the effects of inhalants. 

Unfortunately, the body gradually builds a tolerance to inhalants. So, the duration of inhalation increases to achieve the desired effects. Additionally, the longer they are misused, and any increase in the frequency of misuse can lead to eventual inhalant addiction. 

Dangers of Inhalants

The toxic chemicals in most inhalants represents inhalants’ biggest danger. Continued misuse of inhalants can lead to:

  • Brain Damage
  • Central Nervous System Damage
  • Damage to the Body’s Primary Organs (Heart, Liver, Lungs, Kidneys)
  • Cognitive and Reasoning Impairment
  • Nasal and Respiratory System Damage
  • Vision Impairment
  • Mobility Impairment and Paralysis
  • Asphyxiation
  • Convulsions and Seizures
  • Choking and Suffocation
  • Coma
  • Death

Signs of Inhalant Misuse

Generally, it is easier to hide inhalant misuse than misuse of other substances. This is due to the sheer range of inhalants on the market, as well as their easy access. That said, most people will begin to show specific signs, including:

  • Frequently Bloody Noses
  • Constant Runny Nose
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Appearing Intoxicated
  • Red, Bloodshot Eyes
  • Mouth Sores
  • Sore Throat
  • Chemical Breath Odor
  • Associating with “New” Friends
  • Withdrawing from Family and Friends

How to Overcome Inhalant Addiction

Discontinuing inhalant misuse can be challenging once someone has become addicted to them. Like other substance use disorders, there are withdrawal symptoms one will experience once they stop using inhalants. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the type of inhalant misused, the duration of use, and the frequency of use. 

In addition, long-term misuse can result in seizures and convulsions during withdrawal. With this in mind, an addiction treatment program that includes medically supervised detox is recommended.

Most withdrawal symptoms subside within a few weeks after last use. However, cravings can continue much longer. Furthermore, the adverse health effects can remain long after inhalant addiction treatment. 

Start Treatment for Inhalant Addiction in Columbus, OH

Admitting you have an inhalant addiction and need help is the first step to recovery. When you are ready to take this first step, you are not alone. Ohio Addiction Recovery Center in Columbus is here to help you through detox to overcome your addiction. 

We offer personalized inpatient and outpatient treatment programs to support you through the many stages of recovery, including aftercare. To start treatment for inhalant addiction or further information about our detox and treatment programs, feel free to contact us and speak with an intake specialist today.

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