Inhalant Addiction and How it Influences Our Lives

This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 15th, 2022

All forms of addiction are dangerous to one extent or another. All have negative health and/or psychological effects that can be either temporary or permanent. However, you could make the case that the most dangerous addiction of all is inhalant addiction. Using inhalants to get high can harm you in so many ways that is difficult to find a comprehensive explanation that covers all the details.

By definition, an inhalant is any substance that can be inhaled in order to produce some sort of physical or psychological effect. There are good inhalants as well as bad. An example of a good inhalant is albuterol, a substance used to treat asthma. The thing is, there are far more bad inhalants than there are good.

Inhalants used by people to get high are broken down into three basic categories: solvents, nitrites, and aerosols. If you are familiar with any of those terms, just let your imagination run. You will quickly conclude that there are literally thousands of products found in homes all over the UK that would qualify. Common inhalants include:

  • paint thinners and turpentine
  • cosmetic products like hairspray and nail polish remover
  • petrol, kerosene, and other combustible fuels
  • felt tip pens, glues, and epoxies
  • cleaning products and aerosol air fresheners.

The list of things that can be inhaled is mind-numbing when you stop and think about it

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Addiction

The drug or alcohol addict is usually able to hide his/her addiction for longer periods of time because the only evidence in the early stages is the individual’s behaviour. Drugs and alcohol can be stashed away, bottles can be easily discarded, and the packaging for a good number of illicit drugs is nondescript enough to be left unrecognised.

Inhalant addicts do not have the same ability to hide what they are doing. For example, someone using inhalants will:

  • smell heavily of chemicals after use
  • show traces of the chemicals on their faces
  • leave behind bags with gasses still in them
  • leave behind rags soaked with the chemicals being inhaled
  • leave legitimate containers, like petrol cans, open and easily accessible by others.

Using inhalants is such that by the time the user is high, he or she lacks the cognisance to clean up. The mess left behind is an indication that inhalants were used. If you were to come upon any of the things listed above, you could then look for physical symptoms that would tell you the person in question was using. Inhalant use produces the following symptoms:

  • Slurred speech
  • Moderate to severe disorientation
  • The appearance of drunkenness
  • Dilated pupils; a wide-eyed look
  • A lack of appetite that can sometimes be persistent
  • Impaired judgement and a tendency toward irrational thought.

A single use of inhalants does not constitute addiction, but it is still drug abuse. The dangers of inhalant addiction are such that family members and friends should never take any chances. On even one instance of inhalant use a person should be referred to professional treatment.

Dangers of Inhalant Addiction

Knowing the signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse is one thing; understanding the perils of the behaviour is altogether different. As we mentioned previously, inhalant addiction is one of the most dangerous addictions possible. So many things can go wrong.

A common characteristic of many inhalants is that these are liquids or semi-liquids that give off strong fumes. Users put these substances into plastic bags to make it easier to inhale the fumes with maximum efficiency. But what happens if a user accidentally inhales the substance instead of just the fumes? The result could be something known as chemical pneumonia. This condition is a medical emergency and, depending on the substance, can kill in minutes.

Another potential danger is swallowing the liquid or semi-liquid substance. Depending on what it is, the user could die of poisoning. At the very least, ingesting many of these substances will do severe damage to the stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys. Things such as cleaning chemicals and solvents are nothing to fool around with.

Above and beyond the potential emergencies inhalants can cause, there are other dangers as well. Please understand that the substances used are almost always damaging to the human body. Some of the damage is immediate, but other damage is done deep inside the body over time. Using inhalants is known to cause:

  • heart and lung disease
  • seizure and convulsion disorders
  • permanent loss of cognitive function
  • long-term psychosis
  • liver and kidney damage
  • loss of vision
  • oral, throat and lung cancer.

Inhalants Are Addictive

We have unfortunately seen an uptake in inhalant addiction over last decade or so. Experts believe this is due to a number of important factors, the first of which is the fact that inhalant substances are cheap, easy to get, and commonly found in most modern households. A young person unable to afford cannabis can still go to the household cleaning cupboard and find something to get high on.

The other problem is that young people simply do not understand that inhalants are addictive. When they think addiction, they think of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. What they don’t know is that any substance that causes a psychoactive reaction can be addictive – even paint thinner and household glue.

Inhalants are every bit as addictive and potentially more destructive than the hard drugs we talk about so often. Please understand that they are nothing to be trifled with. Here at UKAT, we have seen our fair share of inhalant addicts in desperate need of help. We are here to assist those in need.

We evaluate every case on an individual basis, unlike others who may have a more limited counselling and treatment approach. If our evaluation reveals inhalant use, we can work with clients to find and access the most appropriate treatments. Contact us right away if you are concerned about an inhalant addiction issue.

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* Click here to learn more or contact UKAT directly for rehab availability.

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