"Addressing alcohol and drug related issues: reducing harm and supporting positive change"
Solvent Abuse

Solvent Abuse

Is it really that dangerous to sniff solvents? - My friends sniff glue and they are OK

Why People Use Inhalants

Inhalants might seem like an alternative to other mood-altering drugs because they are cheap, can be purchased legally, and are easy to obtain. But that doesn't make them safer. Household products are safe for cleaning, painting, and the other things they're meant to do. But as inhalants, they can be deadlier than street drugs.

There are four main types of inhalants: volatile solvents, gases, aerosols, and nitrites. Volatile solvents, gases, and aerosols can alter moods and create a high.

Effects on the Body

People inhale chemical vapors in several ways, including sniffing, snorting, or spraying the inhalant directly into the nose or mouth, putting it into a bag or other container and then inhaling from there, putting the vapor onto a rag, or inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons.

Because the high from inhalants only lasts a few minutes, some people may inhale over and over again for long periods of time to maintain the high, increasing the amount of dangerous chemicals entering and damaging the body.

Inhalants can cause many changes in the body. Once the vapors enter the body, some are absorbed by parts of the brain and nervous system. All of the inhalants (except nitrites) slow down the body's functions, similar to the effects of drinking alcohol. At first someone gets excited, but then gets tired, has trouble speaking clearly or walking well, gets dizzy, loses inhibitions, and may get agitated.

Other short-term effects of inhaling chemicals include:

  • increased heart rate
  • hallucinations or delusions
  • losing feeling or consciousness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of coordination
  • slurred speech

Because inhalants are found in most homes, people don't realize they are incredibly addictive. People who become addicted to using inhalants are likely to become long-term users. This puts them at risk for the following health problems:

  • brain damage (toxic chemicals may make people become slow or clumsy, have trouble solving problems or planning ahead, suffer from memory loss, or become unable to learn new things)
  • muscle weakness
  • depression
  • headaches and nosebleeds
  • loss of sense of smell or hearing

How Inhalants Kill

Like most street drugs, inhalants can be deadly. Someone can die from abusing inhalants after trying it only once. Causes of death include:

  • "Sudden Sniffing Death" - This is the most common cause of death from inhalant use. The heart beats quickly and irregularly, and then suddenly stops (cardiac arrest).
  • Asphyxia - Toxic fumes replace oxygen in the lungs so that a person stops breathing.
  • Choking - A user can choke on his or her vomit.
  • Suffocation - When vapors are inhaled from a plastic bag placed over the head, the bag can block air.
  • Injuries - Since people high on inhalants often make poor decisions, they might try to drive under the influence or do something irrational, such as jump off a roof. They could also get burned or start explosions if a spark ignites flammable inhalants.
  • Suicide - Some people become depressed when their high wears off.



Signs of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalants, like other drugs, have noticeable effects on those using them. Someone on inhalants may suffer from a number of different ill effects, including:

  • mood swings
  • extreme anger, agitation, and irritability
  • exhaustion
  • loss of appetite
  • frequent vomiting
  • hallucinations and illusions
  • facial rashes and blisters
  • frequent nose running and coughing
  • dilated pupils
  • extremely bad breath

Getting Help

If you think you - or a friend - may be addicted to inhalants, talk to your doctor, school counselor, or nurse. They can help you get the help you need.

ASCERT
23 Bridge Street,
Lisburn
Co. Antrim
BT28 1XZ

Tel: 0800 2545 123
Fax: 028 9260 3874
Email: info@ascert.biz
Charity Number: NIC101239