August 8th, 2023
Inhalants are substances which are breathed in through the nose or mouth to produce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect. These substances are often easily accessible and legal to purchase which can make them seem like a safe option. However, while inhalants may be legally purchased substances, they are often abused and can be highly addictive and dangerous. If you are struggling with inhalant addiction it is important to know that there is inhalant addiction treatment available which can help you overcome the condition and turn your life around.
What are inhalants?
By definition, an inhalant is any substance that can be inhaled in order to produce some sort of physical or psychological effect. There are useful inhalants such as albuterol, a substance used to treat asthma, but there are also a considerable number of inhalants that are used by people to get high.
These can be broken down into three basic categories: solvents, nitrites, and aerosols. If you are familiar with those terms, you will understand that there are many products found in our homes which can be abused and potentially lead to volatile substance addiction.
How inhalant addictions develop
Whatever the reason for starting to abuse inhalants, addiction can develop quickly. The effects of inhalants are similar to those of other substances like drugs and alcohol and include feelings of euphoria and relaxation. However, these effects only last a few minutes which encourages people to keep using in order to maintain the high.
This continuous use can lead to tolerance meaning you can no longer get the same high from using the same amount of inhalants. You may then start to use it more and more frequently in order to achieve the desired effect which ultimately leads to a physical dependency. At this point, inhalant addiction becomes very likely as you will feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop using.
The dangers of inhalant addiction and abuse
There are many potential dangers of inhalant addiction that you should be aware of.
First of all, most inhalants are liquids or semi-liquids that give off strong fumes. Users sometimes put these substances into plastic bags to make it easier to inhale the fumes with maximum efficiency. However, some users accidentally inhale the substance instead of just the fumes. This could result in 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, such as cleaning chemicals and solvents will do severe damage to the stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys.
Above and beyond the potential emergencies inhalants can cause, there are other dangers as well. Some of the damage is immediate but there is further harm caused over a longer period of time. It all depends on the particular substance being abused.
Some common health issues include:
- Hearing loss
- Muscle weakness
- Nerve damage
- Brain damage (similar to that seen in Alzheimer’s disease)
- Kidney and liver damage
- Bone marrow damage, which can lead to anaemia
- Cancer of the nose
- 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
All of these conditions can be very harmful and potentially even fatal so it is crucial to seek help as soon as possible. At UKAT, we have helped many people overcome their inhalant addiction and go on to lead healthy lives. Get in touch with us today to find out more about our inhalant abuse treatment programmes.
Signs and symptoms of inhalant addiction and abuse
There are various signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one is using inhalants. In terms of the physical signs, you may notice:
- 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.
Of course, these symptoms can indicate many other conditions from drunkenness to stress or even just fatigue. However, if you also notice the following signs, there is a good chance your loved one is abusing inhalants:
- The strong smell of chemicals on their clothes or person
- Traces of chemicals on their faces
- Bags with gases still in them
- Rags soaked with chemicals
- Chemical containers with constantly depleting contents
While a single use of inhalants does not constitute addiction, it is still very dangerous so you should never take any chances. Speak to your loved one if you have concerns so that you can find out the truth and help them get the treatment they need.
Signs and symptoms of inhalant addiction and abuse
The first step on the road to recovery is admitting to yourself that you have an inhalant addiction. This is not as easy as it sounds because many people who abuse inhalants find it hard to recognise that they need help. This may be because they believe legal substances cannot be addictive or because so many of their friends abuse substances that it becomes normalised. To help you recognise the need for inhalant abuse treatment, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I spend a lot of time thinking about using inhalants?
- Do I use inhalants more often than I would like to?
- Have family or friends expressed concern about my use of inhalants?
- Do I continue using inhalants despite negative consequences such as job loss or relationship problems?
- Do I feel like I need to use inhalants in order to cope with my emotions or life in general?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it is highly likely that you are struggling with an inhalant addiction and need treatment. It can be difficult to ask for help but it is important to remember that you are not alone and there is plenty of support available.
How is inhalant addiction treated?
There are various options for inhalant addiction treatment, but the best way is at a professional inpatient rehab centre. There you will undergo a recovery programme that will usually involve detox to remove substances from your system before going on to rehab treatment. Inpatient treatment is the best option because also you can focus entirely on your recovery without having to worry about work, family or other commitments. You will also be unable to access inhalants and won’t be surrounded by negative influences or addictive triggers.
During rehab, you will participate in a range of therapies designed to help you overcome your addiction. At UKAT, these include:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – This will help you to identify and change any negative thought patterns or behaviours that contribute to your inhalant addiction.
- Group therapy – This provides a space for you to share your experiences with others who are going through similar things. It can be very helpful in terms of providing support and helping you to see that you are not alone.
- One-to-one therapy – This gives you the chance to explore your inhalant addiction in depth with a professional who can offer guidance and support.
- Family therapy – This is important in order to repair any damage that has been done to your relationships and to help your family understand what you are going through.
- Other recovery approaches such as yoga and meditation – These approaches will help you to relax and focus on your recovery from inhalant abuse and also provide coping methods when you are going through difficult times both during and after inhalant addiction treatment.
After completing inhalant treatment, you will enter aftercare where you will get the support and guidance you need to reduce the chance of relapse and maintain your sobriety in the long term.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an inhalant addiction, please get in touch with us today. Many of UKAT’s staff have been through addiction treatment themselves so know first-hand how difficult it can be to ask for help. We are here to support you every step of the way on your journey to recovery.
Common myths associated with inhalants
- Inhalants are not addictive because they are legal substances…
Inhalants may be legal but this does not mean they are safe or non-addictive. In fact, inhalants are some of the most dangerous substances available because of their high potential for abuse and addiction and the immediate health risks posed by their abuse.
- Only teenagers abuse inhalants…
While it is true that inhalant abuse is most common amongst young people, it can affect people of all ages. Inhalant addiction does not discriminate and there are older people who both abuse inhalants and become addicted to them.
- Only prolonged abuse of inhalants leads to inhalant addiction…
It is possible to become addicted to inhalants after just one use. The risk of inhalant addiction certainly increases with prolonged abuse but it is not necessary for someone to be a long-term abuser in order to develop an addiction.
Frequently asked questions
What are inhalant withdrawal symptoms?
Inhalant withdrawal symptoms are similar to those experienced when coming off other substances. While generally considered to be relatively mild, one study found that 11.1% of young people experienced nausea
, hallucinations, headaches, cravings, depression, anxiety, runny eyes and noses, increased heart rate and nausea or vomiting when they stopped using inhalants.
How can I help someone with inhalant addiction?
If someone you know is addicted to inhalants, the best thing you can do is encourage them to seek professional help. This can be difficult as they may be in denial or feel ashamed, but talking to them about your concerns and the harm they are doing to themselves may be the catalyst for them to seek help. You can also offer your support throughout their treatment and recovery so they know they are not alone.
Where can inhalant addiction be treated?
UKAT has inhalant addiction treatment centres
across the UK which have helped hundreds of people with their recovery. Get in touch with us today so we can explain more about our treatment programmes and help you find the right rehab centre.