Inhalants are volatile substances that produce chemical vapors which can be inhaled to produce mind altering affects. The term ‘huffing’ refers to the use of these substances which include a wide variety of different common household items to medical anesthetics. The biggest problem with inhalant abusers is that access to these substances is extremely easy because most are not intended to be used as a drug such as spray paints, glues and cleaning fluids. Most people do not realize that these products can be abused in such a way and do not take the care to keep them away from children.
The most commonly abused inhalants fall into five categories that are classified by their chemical structure. Alphatic Hydrocarbons are petroleum products like gasoline, kerosene, propane and butane. Aromatic Hydrocarbons which are solvents, such as toluene and xylene, are found in products like paint thinner. Ketones are substances like acetone which can be found in many household items including nail polish remover. Haloalkanes are chemicals found in aerosols and propellants and include a wide variety of different compounds. Nitrites are used medically as well as abused; dental anesthetics like nitrous oxide and products containing alkyl or amyl nitrite, which are sold as a recreational inhalant in some places, are known as ‘poppers‘.
Children and teens are the most common abusers of inhalants; this is probably due to the fact that these are the easiest psychoactive substances to acquire for them. ‘Huffing’ can be done in various ways and may depend on what substance the user is trying to ‘huff’. Those who huff use plastic bags over their mouths to inhale vapors or aerosol propellants, or breathe in the chemical through a solvent soaked rag held over the mouth and nose, some can be inhaled from an open container that the product came in. These substances have some of the most dangerous and harmful short term effects of any drug that is abused. Users have died from a lack of oxygen, pneumonia, cardiac arrest or failure or the inhalation of vomit. Some people have suffered from ‘sudden sniffing death’ dying immediately or soon after ‘huffing’ the chemical.
Long term effects such as severe brain damage are common in chronic inhalant users. Inhalant abuse can also be destructive to the users central nervous system and can cause symptoms similar to those who suffer from multiple sclerosis. Prolonged abuse can also affect thinking, movement, vision and hearing loss as well.
Most of the substances abused as inhalants are not physically addicting, some may be, but users become psychologically addicted to the feeling of inhalant intoxication. As for those who have already developed a drug addiction to inhalants, rehabilitation may be required to prevent any further damage to the body. Withdrawal symptoms from abuse are not severe, but addicts will suffer from craving to use for a long period making relapse a prominent possibility. If you or someone you know is abusing inhalants, it is extremely important to get professional help and consult with a professional physician or drug rehab facility immediately in order to erase the negative consequences of drug addiction.