Inhalants are breathable chemicals that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) vapors.  People do not usually think of inhalants as drugs because most of them were never meant to be used that way.  Substances abused as inhalants include solvents, aerosols, some anesthetics, and other chemicals.  Examples are model airplane glue, nail polish remover, lighter and cleaning fluids, and paints.  Aerosols that are used as inhalants include paints, cookware coating agents, hair sprays, and other spray products.  Anesthetics include halothane and nitrous oxide (laughing gas).  Amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite are inhalants that also are abused.


Text Box: Dangers:
·	Liver & kidney damage
·	Nerve damage
·	Brain damage
·	Instant heart failure
·	Throat, nasal, & lung damage
·	Teeth & gum damage
·	Loss of appetite
·	Tiredness
·	Nausea
·	Nosebleeds
·	Respiratory arrest
·	Suffocation
·	Coma
·	Possible death

·	Violence
·	Exhilaration
·	Slurred speech
·	Drunken appearance
·	Irritation of nose and eyes
·	Chemical odor on breath & clothes
·	Blank expression
·	Lack of inhibitions
·	Nausea or vomiting

Common Forms:
·	Solvents & aerosols
·	Anesthetics
·	Nitrites
·	Volatile hydrocarbon
·	Nitrous oxide
·	Halothane
·	Amyl & butyl nitrite
·	Freon
·	Airplane glue
·	Household cement
·	Nail polish remover
·	Lighter or starter fluid
·	Gasoline
·	Thinner, paint, & stain
·	Varnish & lacquer
·	Insecticide
·	Hairspray
·	Cleaning fluid
·	Laughing gas
·	Room deodorizer
·	Frying pan coating
·	Felt tip pens
·	Typewriter correction fluid

Why are some inhalants called vasodilators?

Some inhalants are referred to as vasodilators because they expand blood vessels and produce a sensation of heat and excitement.  As blood vessels expand, the flow of blood increases causing blood pressure to fall rapidly.  The heart must then work harder to compensate, and the increased heart rate can be hazardous, particularly for anyone with heart disease or high blood pressure.


What is amyl nitrite?

Amyl nitrite is a clear, yellowish liquid that is sold in a cloth-covered, sealed bulb.  When the bulb is broken, it makes a snapping sound; thus they are nicknamed “snappers” or “pop’rs” (poppers).  Amyl nitrite is used for heart patients and for diagnostic purpose because it dilates the blood vessels and makes the heart beat faster.  Reports of amyl nitrite abuse occurred before 1979, when it was available without a prescription.  When it became available by prescription only, unethical drug entrepreneurs marketed a closely related product called butyl nitrate.  Now, in many communities, butyl nitrite is an under-the-county drug, and its use is closely monitored.


What is butyl nitrite?

Butyl nitrite is packaged in small brown glass bottles labeled “room deodorizer,” “liquid incense,” and “liquid aroma.”  On each bottle manufacturers include a warning label, protecting them from prosecution, which advises consumers not to inhale the fumes.  Butyl nitrate had been sold under a variety of names, such as “Pop’rs,” “Hardware,” “Pig pop’rs,” “Ran,” “Locker Room,” and “Rush,” but are now illegal nationwide.  Butyl nitrate produces a “high” that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes.  The immediate effects include decreased blood pressure, followed by an increased heart rate, flushed face and neck, dizziness, and headache.


What is nitrous oxide?

Dentists professionally use nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, as an anesthetic.  Nitrous oxide is also used as propellant for whipped cream, called “whippets.”  “Whippets” come in small metal cylinders.  Each cylinder contains 7 liters of nitrous oxide.  When inhaling “whippets,” the user may be breathing in only 10% air, a level that may cause them to pass out, and can cause suffocation.


Why do kids use inhalants?

Young people, especially between the ages of 7 and 17, are more likely to abuse inhalants because they are readily available and inexpensive.  Sometimes children unintentionally misuse inhalant products that are often found around the house.  Most sniffers have friends or older brothers and sisters who sniff.  Parents should see that these substances, like medicines, are kept away from young children.



How do inhalants work?

Although different in makeup, many abused inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body’s functions.  At low doses, users may feel slightly stimulated; at higher amounts, they may feel less inhibited, intoxicated, less in control.  As tolerance develops, a user must “sniff” more and more often, increasing the strength of the products inhaled.  A sniffer’s “high” only lasts 15 minutes to one hour.  This is why users sniff several times a day.  At higher doses, a user can lose consciousness and die.


What is “huffing?”

“Huffing” is a way of inhaling chemicals through the open mouth (similar to the inhaling of cigarette smoke).  There are several other techniques used for “huffing” and inhaling dangerous substances:

·         Spraying chemicals into a plastic bag and inhaling.

·         Saturating a rag with chemicals and inhaling from the rag.

·         Spraying the chemical in a soda can and breathing the fumes from the can making it look as if they are drinking soda from the can.


“Torch breathing” is when propane or another flammable chemical is placed in a plastic bag and the fumes are inhaled and ignited to cause a flash fire.


Are inhalants used with other drugs?

As in all drug use, taking more than one drug at a time multiplies the risks.  Using inhalants while taking other drugs that slow down the body’s functions, such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills, or alcohol, increases the risk of death from overdose.  Loss of consciousness, coma, or death can also result.


A tragic story: A 16-year-old midwestern boy’s life was tragically ended when he collapsed and never regained consciousness, due to a use of inhalants.  The model student and son, (a Junior ROTC commander and honor student), used butane fuel to get high.  Reports quoted that family members, prior to his death, had found him with butane cans and found other empty ones hidden around the home.  When questioned, he told them they were for a school experiment.  His family accepted this reasoning, unaware that he was really using the butane fuel to get high.


This high school student had exceptional test scores for a college admissions test and had qualified for a military academy and a ROTC scholarship to the college of his choice.  He had no personality change and everything was running according to his plans.  His younger brothers knew of his involvement with inhalants and his girlfriend was reported as saying that he had inhaled about 3 cans a day during the 3 weeks prior to his death.  (A label from a can he was inhaling was labeled as having as much fuel as 17 disposable lighters.)  They all had confidence that he knew what he was doing.  Since this young man’s death, many stores in the area are no longer carrying butane fuel or only carrying it on an under-the-counter capacity; with the reasoning that if it saves the life of one kid … it’s worth it.


What are the initial effects of inhalants?

·         Nausea

·         Sneezing

·         Coughing

·         Nosebleeds

·         Feeling and looking tired

·         Smell of solvent on breath

·         Lack of coordination

·         Loss of appetite.


Solvents and aerosols also decrease the heart and breathing rate and affect judgment.  How strong these effects are depends on: the experience and personality of the user, how much is taken, the specific substance inhaled, and the user’s surroundings.  The “high” from inhalants tends to be short but can last several hours if use is repeated.

Short-term effects:

Deep breathing of the vapors, or inhaling excessively over a short period of time may result in:

·         Losing touch with one’s surroundings

·         Loss of self-control or violent behavior

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         If a person is unconscious when vomiting occurs, death can result from aspiration.


Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of solvents or aerosol sprays can produce heart failure and instant death.


Sniffing can cause death the first time or any time.  High concentrations of inhalants cause death from suffocation by displacing the oxygen in the lungs.  Inhalants also can cause death by depressing the central nervous system so much that breathing slows down until it stops.


Deliberately inhaling from a paper bag greatly increases the chance of suffocation.  Even when using aerosol or volatile (vaporous) products for their legitimate purposes, such as when painting or cleaning, it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.

Long-term effects:

·         Weight loss

·         Fatigue

·         Electrolyte (salt) imbalance

·         Muscle fatigue

·         Damage to the liver, kidneys, blood, and bone marrow.


Repeated sniffing of concentrated vapors over a number of years can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, which means greatly reduced physical and mental capabilities.


What is Sudden Sniffing Death?

Sudden Sniffing Death is a phenomenon that is created when a person inhales combinations of certain solvents and substances.  The heart starts beating with wild irregularity and death occurs within minutes.





Reference Material:

National Drug & Safety League (A non-profit charitable organization).