Whilst many other drugs can be inhaled the term inhalant refers to drugs that are exclusively used by inhalation. Inhalants are often considered an introductory drug, similar to cannabis, but may lead to experimentation of other substances. This does not negate the dangers associated with using inhalants. Abuse can lead to serious long-term side effects, often permanent organ damage or even instant death; these effects should not be taken lightly. If you or someone you love is suffering from abusing inhalants it is important to seek medical support from a trained professional who can assess the situation and make recommendations. 

What Are Inhalants?

A variety of inhalants are easily found at your nearest supermarket making them accessible to everyone. Think of these average household products: permanent markers, glue sticks, cleaning fluids, or deodorant spray. You probably wouldn’t consider them dangerous drugs, however,  all of these products are classed as inhalants and carry the risk of abuse. Inhalants contain extremely dangerous chemicals with psychoactive properties, and many people use them for this purpose. 

Inhalant substances include:

  • Solvents: industrial household products such as:
    • Degreasers
    • Glue
    • Felt-tip markers
    • Correction fluid 
    • Paint thinners or removers
    • Dry-cleaning fluids
    • Lighter fluid
  • Aerosols
    • Hairspray
    • Spray paint 
    • Deodorant spray 
    • Whipped cream canisters
    • Vegetable oil sprays
  • Gases 
    • Nitrous oxide
    • Propane tanks
    • Butane lighters
    • Chloroform
    • Ether
    • Medical aesthetics 
  • Nitrites 
    • Commonly referred to as ‘poppers’
    • Prescription medicines for chest pain
    • Often sold in small brown bottles labelled as, video head cleaner, room odouriser, leather cleaner, liquid aromas

How Are Inhalants Used?

Inhalants can be ingested by breathing in the fumes from your nose and mouth and there are various methods of doing so. Although the high that inhalants produce usually lasts just a few minutes, people often try to make it last by continuing to inhale again and again over several hours.

Side Effects of Inhalants

The side effects of using inhalants can last from only a short few seconds to a few minutes, however, the long term effects can be permanent. 

Side effects include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination 
  • Dizziness/Lightheadedness 
  • Euphoria 
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation 
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Chapped lips or chapped skin around mouth and nose
  • Sores or small spots around the mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Congested or runny nose

Long-term effects include: 

  • Organ damage
  • Limb spasms
  • Delayed behavioural development
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Nerve damage 

Unlike other types of inhalants, nitrites, which are commonly prescribed by a doctor to treat chest pain, are often misused as a way of enhancing sexual pleasure and performance by expanding and relaxing blood vessels. This can lead to you participating in unsafe sexual activities and other risky behaviours. This in turn increases your chance of contracting or spreading sexually transmitted infectious diseases.

Can a Person Overdose from Inhalants?

The short answer is yes. An overdose can occur when you ingest too much of a drug and so the toxic reaction results in serious, harmful side effects, some of which can be fatal. An inhalant overdose can lead to seizures, coma, and even sudden death. Due to the fact that inhalant substances are highly concentrated, meaning they contain a vast amount of chemicals with multiple ingredients, sniffing these products can cause the heart to abruptly stop. This is a condition known as ‘sudden sniffing death’ and can occur even after your first use. Overdose may not always result in deadly consequences, however, there are certain side effects to be aware of. 

Other symptoms of overdose include:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Choking
  • Blue tint to the lips, fingers and/or toes
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures/convulsions

If you have too much exposure at once to certain gases, for example, nitrous oxide, you are at risk of brain damage. If someone is suspected of having overdosed, medical attention should be sought immediately. 

How is Inhalant Addiction Treated?

Inhalant addiction treatment is available on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Your decision will ultimately be based upon your individual needs and circumstances. While residential rehab is considered to be the most effective form of treatment for inhalant addiction, clinics like CATCH Recovery offer exceptional outpatient addiction treatment. 

Effective treatment for any addiction consists of a medical detox depending on which substances are involved. Detox should then be followed by and is then followed by an intensive course of therapy. 

While detox is an important part of overcoming physical dependency, treating the psychological aspects of addiction will provide you with the tools you need to maintain long-term sobriety. Psychological dependence is the term used to describe the emotional and mental components of substance use disorder. This is usually characterised by strong cravings for a particular substance or behaviour and the inability to function without it. 

CATCH Recovery uses evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), grief and trauma therapy, one-to-one counselling sessions, group therapy and online therapy. We also teach relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation which can help with managing stressful situations, in addition to withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia. 

Whether it’s residential rehab or an intensive outpatient therapy, finishing a programme can also feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed without the structure and safety you’ve become accustomed to. With this in mind, we have created an exceptional aftercare programme designed to prevent relapse and help you deal with the stressors of everyday life. 

Finding Treatment for Inhalant Addiction in London

Whilst an inhalant addiction is not common, repeated use of the substance can potentially lead to a substance use disorder or addiction. If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, you can call our admissions team for your free addiction assessment, and they will be able to advise you on the next steps. 

Our clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. However, if you need additional support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from some of the outpatient services we offer. If you require residential rehab and are unable to travel to London, we also provide referrals to rehabs in other areas in the UK and Ireland.