There are hundreds of household products on the market today that can be misused as inhalants. Examples of inhalants most commonly used are model airplane glue, nail polish remover, cleaning fluids, hair spray, gasoline, the propellant in aerosol used for whipped cream, spray paint, fabric protector, air conditioner fluid (freon), cooking spray and white-out.
Inhalants can be abused in a variety of ways. These products are sniffed, snorted, bagged (fumes inhaled from a plastic bag), or “huffed” (inhalant-soaked rag, sock, or roll of toilet paper covering the mouth) to achieve a high.
Within seconds of inhalation, the user experiences intoxication along with other effects similar to those produced by alcohol. Alcohol-like effects may include slurred speech, an inability to coordinate movements, dizziness, confusion and delirium. Nausea and vomiting are other common side effects. In addition, users may experience lightheadedness, hallucinations, and delusions.
Long-term effects of inhalants can include compulsive use and a mild withdrawal syndrome. Additional symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant abusers include weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression. After heavy use of inhalants, abusers may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache. Because intoxication lasts only a few minutes, abusers frequently seek to prolong their high by continuing to inhale repeatedly over the course of several hours. By doing this, abusers can suffer loss of consciousness and death.
If someone is an inhalant abuser, some or all of these symptoms may be evident:
- Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
- Slurred or disoriented speech
- Uncoordinated physical symptoms
- Red or runny eyes and nose
- Spots and/or sores around the mouth
- Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
- Signs of paint or other products where they wouldn’t normally be, such as on face, lips, nose or fingers
- Nausea and/or loss of appetite
- Chronic Inhalant Abusers may exhibit symptoms such as hallucinations, anxiety, excitability, irritability, restlessness or anger.