Some national surveys suggest that 21.7 million individuals have used inhalants in the United States at least once. While this number is alarming, it is nowhere near that of other drugs that are abused consistently. However, this is not to say that inhalants do not have addictive qualities.

Just because a certain drug is abused on a less consistent basis does not mean that the potential of addiction doesn’t still exist. The potential of a substance use disorderis far too dangerous to shrug off as not being an “actual”addiction.

Who is Addicted to Inhalants?

When someone can’t control themselves and their inhalant abuse and they know inhalant abuse has negative consequences, it is considered an inhalant addiction. Some have a desire to quit abusing inhalants, but they aren’t able to because of their addiction. In addition to this, inhalants are more readily available than not, and this makes it difficult for individuals to quit no matter how hard they try. 

Those who use inhalants frequently will develop a dependency on the drug, whether it be psychological, physical, or both. When it comes to who uses them most, teenagers are among the most prevalent users. Somewhere between 13 and 16 percent of 8th graders use inhalants. What’s most interesting about this is that the same percentage of individuals that age use marijuana. 

What are Inhalants?

In short, inhalants are substances that evaporate easily at room temperature and produce effects that alter the mind for a short period. This is similar to the effects of alcohol. Inhalants are a very general term that acts as a very wide umbrella for more specific kinds of the drug itself. One part of this, however, remains consistent: the method. 

Inhalant Examples

Inhalants are often referred to as huff, hippie crack, laughing gas, and more. This is because it involves the misuse of cleaning products, gas, and anesthetics. Anesthetics are gases that are used to reduce pain sensitivity, most commonly for surgery. Nitrous oxide (better known as ‘laughing gas’) and chloroform are both different kinds of anesthetics. 

Nitrous oxide specifically is used by dentists, but how do people wind up getting it? Well, the answer is quite simple. Nitrous oxide is also used in cans of whipped cream, which is where most people get it from so that they may abuse it. 

Another inhalant that is commonly used is called Amyl Nitrite. The practical use of this drug involves treating individuals for heart disease by using inhalants to increase an individual’s blood flow. What separates this inhalant from the rest is its primary function as a muscle relaxant. 

Inhalant Classes

Inhalants can be broken up and categorized into four classes:

  • Solvents
  • Aerosols
  • Gases
  • Nitrites


Different kinds of solvents include the following:

  • Paint Thinners
  • Dry-Cleaning Fluid
  • Marker Fluid
  • Correction Fluid
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Gasoline
  • Glue
  • Nail Polish
  • Nail Polish Remover


Different kinds of aerosols include the following:

  • Spray Paint
  • Hair Spray
  • Spray Deodorant
  • Spray Vegetable Oil


Different kinds of gases include the following:

  • Propane Tanks
  • Butane Lighters
  • Whippets
  • Ether
  • Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas)
  • Freon


Different kinds of Nitrites include the following:

  • Room Odorizer
  • Video Head Cleaner
  • Leather Cleaner

How Are Inhalants Used?

Inhalants are used most commonly by a technique called ‘huffing’. Huffing is what is referred to when someone soaks something like a rag in the inhalant and then breathes in the inhalant while they have the rag up to their face. This, however, doesn’t always have to be done with a rag; sometimes, the process isn’t done by use of a rag, but rather sniffing or breathing directly from the container.

In some cases, individuals have heated substances so that the effects would be more intense. In other circumstances, people have used plastic bags to inhale substances. Either way, you slice it, it’s not a healthy outlet by any means.  

The Impact of Inhalants

The effects of abusing inhalants include the following:

  • Euphoria
  • Excitement
  • Hallucinations
  • Lack of Self-Control
  • Decreased Motor Skills
  • Blackouts
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired Speech
  • Kidney Damage
  • Liver Damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Hearing Loss
  • Bone Marrow Damage
  • Limb Spasms
  • Nerve Damage
  • Brain Damage

Because the effects of alcohol are so similar to the effects of inhalants, the two have often been compared to one another. These similarities include a decrease in motor kill function and lack of judgment. However, the main difference between the two has to do with the fact that inhalants are hallucinogens. The effects are temporary but intense; they only last a few minutes.

When it comes to those who are affected the most by inhalant abuse, teenagers take the cake. Teenagers in the US are responsible for being the largest group of individuals who abuse inhalants. In the past, the average age was 17 years old. 

In some cases, the words ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ are interchangeable because even the slightest use of inhalants can cause serious damage to the body whether it be physical or psychological. More concerning is the fact that in some cases, this drug could be considered fatal. This is due to the extreme side effects and the intensity at which they are experienced. 

Inhalant Abuse by the Numbers

Inhalant abuse alone has been responsible for the following statistics:

  • Over 10,000 hospital visits in 2011.
  • Well, over half (60%) of first-time users are teenagers.
  • Inhalant abuse is most common in young teenagers.
  • 140,000 cases of inhalant addiction were reported in 2011.

Inhalant Addiction Treatment Options

Some examples of inhalant addiction treatment include the following:

Inhalant abuse is no laughing matter. This sort of dependence can cause permanent damage, and that’s just when the drug is abused in a short-term capacity. Those who find themselves dependent on inhalant use are in desperate need of professional care. This is where treatment for inhalant abuse comes into play. 

Inpatient Residential Treatment for Inhalant Abuse

When it comes to treatment for any sort of substance use disorder, it is imperative to seek out all options. Inpatient residential treatment is meant for more severe forms of substance abuse. Lasting anywhere between 28 days to six months, residential treatment offers individuals 24/7 quality care, as well as weekly therapy

Inpatient residential treatment has been known to work very effectively in the case of many. This form of treatment is much more intensive, but it is well worth it. Residential treatment is a distraction-free environment, allowing individuals to focus on what truly matters most. 

Outpatient Treatment for Inhalant Abuse

Lasting anywhere from three months to over a year, outpatient treatment allows individuals to recover with minimal disruption to their daily lives. Outpatient treatment offers those who participate anywhere between 10-12 hours of therapy per week. This method of care is not as intense as a residential treatment program and is meant for those who suffer from milder forms of substance use disorder. 

In most cases, outpatient treatment is used as a stepping stone between residential treatment and the real world. This allows individuals to still get the care they need while moving on with their lives, starting anew. Those who participate in outpatient that have already been through residential treatment lessen the likelihood of relapse, thus getting the most out of their time in recovery. 

Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some symptoms of withdrawal from substance use disorder include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Experiencing withdrawal from drugs and alcohol is a scary thing to go through. Those who have a hard time weaning themselves off are at risk of relapsing. This is not good as it could destroy everything an individual has worked to build up in terms of their addiction recovery. To combat this, many individuals pursue medically assisted treatment. 

Medically assisted treatment is what is referred to when someone in treatment is being weaned off of drugs or alcohol with the help of medication. The purpose of the medication is to help curb the symptoms of withdrawal so that their recovery experience is the best it can be, and also so that they don’t relapse.

Holistic Treatment

There are many forms of care when it comes to treating substance use disorder. Some of these include a more structured scientific approach while others aim to bring the soul of the individual back to a healthy state of being. Holistic care includes practices such as meditation, yoga, outdoor activities, and therapy. These methods have been known to help individuals’ mental well being, which in some cases could make all the difference in the success of their recovery. 

Unity is Here to Help

Inhalant abuse is not an easy thing to overcome (no addiction is). There’s no doubt that the road to recovery may be bumpy, but it doesn’t mean that those who are going through it have to do so alone. At Unity Behavioral Health, we aim to provide individuals with the utmost in professional treatment. If you or a loved one are suffering from inhalant abuse and would like to go over recovery options, you can contact us here.

Get Help Now

Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.


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