What Is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abuse

Whip Its, huffing, dusting. These are just some of the terms used to refer to the practice of inhalant abuse. So, what is inhalant abuse exactly?

What Are Inhalants?

The term, “inhalants” refers to a broad range of products that can produce chemical vapors or fumes. When inhaled, these items produce mind-altering effects. The person inhales the fumes or gases in hopes of experiencing a rush or high. Effects include euphoria, relaxation, lightheadedness, hallucinations, feeling uninhibited, and a sense of calm.

Because the fumes from these products go straight from the capillaries in the lungs right into the bloodstream, the effects come on quickly but last only a few minutes.  Because the high is short-acting, the person often repeats the huffing action multiple times to create a long-lasting high.

Types of Inhalant Abuse

It is mostly teens and young adults who are more prone to high-risk, thrill-seeking behaviors that are drawn to inhalant abuse. TikTok and YouTube videos fuel the curiosity of young people who might be looking for a dare. In fact, about two-thirds of those who engage in inhalant abuse are under the age of eighteen.

Inhalants are also referred to as hippie crack, laughing gas, ballooning, noz, and chargers. These products are often used to achieve a high in social settings like raves, dance clubs, rock concerts, and parties. Often, these young people are not informed about the dangers that huffing can cause to their health and wellbeing.

The products used for inhalant abuse are household products that are widely accessible to young people seeking a high. There are four main categories of inhalants. These include:

  • Nitrous oxide: Propane tanks, Freon, whipped cream canisters, butane lighters, chloroform, nitrous oxide, and ether.
  • Aerosols: Spray paint, vegetable oil spray, hair spray, spray deodorant, and aerosolized computer cleaning products
  • Volatile solvents: Paint thinners, gasoline, glues, degreasers, dry-cleaning fluids, lighter fluid, and felt-tip markers.
  • Nitrites: Amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite, room deodorizer, leather cleaner, liquid aroma, and video head cleaner.

Methods used for inhaling these products include:

  • Inhaling the gas with a bag over the head is referred to as bagging.
  • Poking a hole in a whipped cream canister and sucking the gas out of it.
  • Sucking gas from a balloon.
  • Inhaling the vapors directly through the nose.
  • Apply the chemical, such as Freon, to a rag and inhale the vapors.

Signs of Inhalant Abuse

Keep an eye out for certain signs that a teen or young adult may be abusing inhalants. These warning signs include:

  • Finding rags soaked in chemicals.
  • Dazed appearance.
  • Mood swings.
  • Secretive behavior.
  • Finding empty cans of inhalants around the house or in their car.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • High-risk behaviors.
  • Avoiding friends and family.
  • Hanging out with a new group.
  • You notice that aerosol household products running out faster than usual.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Chemical odor on clothing.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Clumsy, staggering.
  • Declining academic performance.
  • Change in hygiene habits.

If parents notice these signs in their teen or young adult, it is best to get them into treatment sooner rather than later. Abuse of inhalants can be deadly.

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Dangers of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse can cause a spectrum of ill effects. The type of inhalant used will determine the side effects. Some of these include:

  • Respiratory problems.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Disorientation
  • Chest pain
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Headache
  • Garbled or slurred speech.
  • Tremors
  • Burning of the esophagus.
  • Bloody stool.
  • Impulsive and risky behaviors result in injury.
  • Limb spasms.
  • Heart damage.
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency.

When a person becomes addicted to dusting or hugging, they can experience serious health effects.  Long-term effects of huffing include:

  • Permanent brain damage.
  • Lung damage.
  • Irreversible neurological damage.
  • Kidney or liver damage.
  • Bone marrow damage.
  • Permanent hearing loss.
  • Damage to the central nervous system, impacting motor, sensory, and cognitive functions.
  • Seizures

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 100-200 people die each year from inhalant abuse. Even huffing at just one time can be lethal; it is something called sudden sniffing death. This happens when hugging causes a heart attack or hypoxia.

Treatment for Inhalant Abuse and Addiction

Huffing is not just some silly teenage practice. People of all ages have engaged in inhalant abuse. Actress Demi Moore was hospitalized at age fifty from inhaling the nitrous oxide chargers. The late singer Aaron Carter admitted to inhalant addiction until he was thirty. Drake Bell of Nickelodeon fame was caught ballooning at age thirty-six.

Inhalant abuse is very high-risk and can cause sudden death. If you have a loved one that is engaging in this risky practice, there is help available. A residential treatment program offers a chance to break the habit of inhalant abuse and start fresh in recovery.

Treatment involves various therapies that assist the person in gaining control back over their life. These include:

  • Group therapy. Small group therapy sessions allow members to share their personal struggles and discuss new recovery goals.
  • One-on-one therapy. Individual sessions provide a safe place to open up and share any mental health struggles that might be present. Therapists use CBT and DBT to guide the person to change dysfunctional behaviors that led to huffing.
  • Recovery meetings. Some rehabs include A.A. meetings and the 12-step program to help guide the recovery process.
  • Education. There are classes that teach clients about how addiction forms in the brain, and ways to avoid a relapse.
  • Holistic. With stress being a trigger for relapse, rehabs include holistic methods in the program. Yoga and meditation are techniques the person can use throughout recovery.

You may be a parent wondering, “What is inhalant abuse?” If so, you may be alarmed to realize that your son or daughter might be engaging in inhalant abuse. Do not hesitate to get them help for this dangerous practice.

Rehabs Malibu Leading Addiction Treatment Center

Rehabs Malibu is a premier addiction recovery program that offers support and treatment for inhalant abuse and addiction. If you suspect a loved one is abusing these products, give us a call today at (424) 425-3541.