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Inhalants Addiction and Abuse

What are Inhalants?

Inhalants are types of drugs that are inhaled through nose i.e. aerosol sprays, glues, and strong smelling fluids that could have hallucinogenic effects on the brain. Although, drugs that are smoked could also be inhaled, inhalants are considered the specific group of drugs that are inhaled through the nose or trachea and not through any other means.

Volatile substances with psychoactive properties are considered as inhalants. Addiction to inhalants can be developed even at an early age because several household items contain addictive volatile substances. The process of inhaling volatile vapors through the nose or trachea is also known as huffing. Inhalant users could use different ways to satisfy their addiction i.e. put a chemically-soaked cloth in their mouth, sniff fumes from a container, inhale fumes from plastic or paper bags, or directly spray aerosols through their nose or mouth.

What are the side effects?

Inhalant addiction is generally difficult to develop but if abused in high frequency on a daily basis it can be developed easily. Inhalants are used for recreational purposes and for achieving a relatively short-term high. When sniffed, or inhaled, inhalants depress the central nervous system and produce similar effects to alcohol, i.e. causing loss of coordination, dizziness, difficulty speaking. In the long term, inhalants could have severe effects on psychological and physical health of a person causing changes in the brain leading to depression, anxiety and hallucinations. Some of the common psychological and physical side-effects associated with inhalants addiction are as following:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Intoxication
  • Difficult in hearing
  • Vision impairment
  • Blackouts
  • Memory loss
  • Limbs spasms
  • Damage to brain, kidneys and liver

In addition to the physical effects of inhalants, psychological distress and suffering are also experienced by the addict.   Psychological issues include:

  • Lost sense of reality
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Loss of Focus

Similar to any addiction, there are social effects of inhalant addiction which lead to a person withdrawing from social situations, isolation from friends and family and general loss of interest in activities the person used to enjoy.

What are the warning signs?

Inhalants addiction is not only common amongst adults but can also start at an early age. If you see your children sniffing or smelling different volatile substances at home then you should take preventive measures and ensure that they don’t develop an addiction.  Moreover, if you think your loved ones are suffering from an inhalant addiction then you should keep track of whether or not they are purchasing different volatile substances, if the substances commonly go missing, if the person is losing interest in activities, seems confused or have an altered sense of reality.

What are withdrawal symptoms?

Physical addiction is very common with inhalant abuse, and in the long-term could cause the user to increase the inhalant intake in order to achieve same effects. Some of the physical withdrawal effects could include tremors, insomnia, nausea, vomiting and seizures. Psychological withdrawal effects are more common in terms of inhalants and include depression, anxiety, hopelessness and mood disorders.

Treatment

If you or someone you love is suffering from an inhalant addiction then you can take comfort in the fact that treatment is possible. The first step is to seek professional help which includes both physical and psychological support. Moreover, at every step of the recovery it is necessary for you to support your loved ones so that they do not develop an addiction again and can be re-integrated back into society successfully.