Volatile substance addiction and abuse

This Page was last reviewed and changed on April 25th, 2022

Content Overview

When we talk of drug use and addiction, the first thing that may come to mind is illicit substances such as cocaine and heroin. However, there are substances that people abuse that are legal to purchase, such as laughing gas, butane gas, spray deodorants and glue. What many people don’t realise, however, is that these substances can be extremely dangerous and also highly addictive.

In this page, we will explore the abuse of different volatile substances and inhalants, their effects and potential risks. You’ll also find advice on how our private rehab clinics help you or someone you know struggling with drug addiction.

  • Jump to
  • Volatile substances
  • Laughing gas
  • Inhalants
  • Detox advice

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a condition that is characterised by the compulsive use of drugs, despite the negative consequences that it has on the individual’s life. Drug addiction can be very harmful to both the individual and to those around them. It can affect a person’s physical and mental health, relationships and work or education. In some cases, drug addiction can lead to crime and homelessness as a person goes to extreme lengths to get the money needed to buy drugs.

You may be under the impression that drug addiction only refers to illegal drugs, but this isn’t the case. It can also mean addiction to legal drugs, such as prescription medications or inhalants. As a cheap and easily available option, these are an addiction risk that often go under the radar.

How does addiction develop?

There are various paths to addiction as it is a complex condition with different people having different underlying causes and triggers. For some people, addiction can be genetic and run in families. For others, it can be caused by trauma, a history of abuse or by mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. However addiction forms, it can have a huge impact on people’s lives and those of their loved ones.

What are the signs of addiction?

Recognising the signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one can be difficult because addiction is deceiving. However, some of the common signs to look out for include:

  • Using drugs even when it is causing harm in your life
  • Obsessively thinking about drugs and how to get more of them
  • Hiding drug use from family and friends
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking drugs
  • What are volatile substances?

    Volatile substances are substances that can be be inhaled to experience a high. While they are not intended to be used as drugs, many people do abuse them in this way. They can be found in everyday household products and are often used as a way to experience short-term relaxation. Volatile substances are absorbed into the blood very quickly when they are inhaled, which means they have a rapid and powerful effect. Some examples of volatile substances include:

  • Butane gas

    A colourless, odourless and flammable liquid. It is used in cigarette lighters, as well as in a number of household products like aerosols and deodorants. When inhaled, its effects include euphoria, dizziness and light-headedness. Butane gas can be extremely dangerous when it is inhaled, as it can cause suffocation, heart attacks and even death.

  • Spray deodorants

    Deodorants contain a number of volatile chemicals, including butane and propane. When these chemicals are inhaled, they can cause dizziness, light-headedness and hallucinations. Abusing spray deodorants can also be extremely harmful to your health, as they can damage your lungs and throat and even cause death.

  • Glue

    Another common household product that contains volatile chemicals. It is usually taken by sniffing or inhaling the fumes. The effects of glue also include dizziness, light-headedness and hallucinations, but it carries all the health risks of other volatile substances.

  • Laughing gas

    Also known as nitrous oxide, is a colourless and odourless gas that is used in various surgical and dental procedures because it has a numbing effect. It can be bought legally in the form of whipped cream chargers and is often inhaled recreationally for its intoxicating effects.

  • What is laughing gas?

    When laughing gas is inhaled, it can cause feelings of euphoria and relaxation. It is often taken by filling a balloon with the gas and inhaling it and is often used as a way to get high at parties or clubs. The effects of laughing gas usually last for a few minutes, during which time people may feel light-headed, dizzy and laugh uncontrollably. Laughing gas has various nicknames, including ‘happy gas’, ‘ hippy crack’ and ‘nos’.

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    Is laughing gas dangerous?

    Laughing gas abuse is very dangerous and can be potentially fatal. In the short term, laughing gas can cause dizziness, nausea and vomiting. In the long term, it can cause serious health problems, including brain damage, heart attacks and asphyxiation. Laughing gas is particularly dangerous if the user has also been drinking alcohol or taking other types of substances, as it can increase the risk of death.

    What are inhalants?

    An inhalant is a drug that is inhaled in order to get high. They affect the brain very quickly because they are absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause feelings of euphoria, dizziness and light-headedness. Inhalants are found in many household products such as:

  • Spray paint

    Can cause a huge amount of harm to the throat and mouth and can also damage the lungs and other organs in the body.

  • Paint thinners

    These contain a number of harmful chemicals, including benzene, which can damage the liver, kidneys and brain.

  • Marker pens

    These contain a number of harmful chemicals, including toluene and xylene, which can damage the brain, liver and kidneys.

  • Air fresheners

    These also contain a number of harmful chemicals, including limonene and linalool, which can damage all the major organs.

  • Are inhalants addictive?

    Inhalants are highly addictive and can lead to dependency very quickly. Inhalants can also be addictive because they are so easy to get hold of, which means it is very easy for a person to use them regularly. The more someone uses inhalants, the more tolerant they become to the effects and the more they need to use to get high. Addiction often occurs when heavy use becomes compulsive. Unlike illegal drugs like heroin or cocaine, inhalants are cheap and legal and can be bought in shops or online, so it is easy to feed the compulsive need.

    Signs and symptoms of inhalant addiction

    A common sign of illegal drug use is paraphernalia such as needles, pipes or drug bags. However, detecting inhalant use or addiction can be more difficult because it involves everyday household products so there is often less evidence. You can still look out for physical signs of inhalant use, however, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Moderate to severe disorientation
  • The appearance of drunkenness
  • Dilated pupils; a wide-eyed look
  • A lack of appetite
  • Impaired judgement or a tendency toward irrational thought
  • Is getting high on volatile substances at home dangerous?

    Yes, getting high at home using any of the substances mentioned on this page is extremely dangerous. Not only is there the potential for addiction and health problems from using them in isolation, but there is also the risk of death from accidental overdose or as a result of mixing these substances with alcohol or other drugs.

    Loss of consciousness, asphyxiation and heart attacks can come on very quickly when using inhalants, and people may not be able to get help in time. This is particularly true when using laughing gas, as it can cause people to become deeply relaxed and unaware of their surroundings.

    Who is at risk of volatile substance addiction?

    Inhalants are particularly dangerous because they are so accessible and affordable. This means that they are particularly appealing to young people who may have limited resources to buy drugs. Inhalants are also appealing to people who are struggling with other forms of addiction, as they provide a quick and easy way to get high.

    Help for volatile substance abuse and drug addiction

    If you or someone you know is addicted to inhalants, there is help available. There are a number of specialist facilities that offer treatment for inhalant addiction. At our private drug rehabilitation centres, we take a holistic approach to addiction treatment providing all our clients with comprehensive inpatient programmes. These include addiction detox, a range of different addiction therapies and a full aftercare programme to ensure that our clients have the best possible chance of overcoming their addiction to drugs.

    Attempting addiction detox alone at home can be extremely dangerous as there is a chance of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. This is why it is always better to undergo detox with professional medical assistance so that you can be kept safe and comfortable. Our addiction treatment centres offer medically assisted addiction detox to all of our clients at the start of their treatment programmes to give them a clean slate to work from.

    Inhalants and volatile substances are very dangerous and have the potential to cause serious health problems and addiction. It is important to be aware of the dangers of these substances and to seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction.

    For more information about UKAT’s private drug rehab centres, get in touch with us today so we can discuss your treatment options.

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