Inhalants are chemical vapors that produce an intense, mind altering or behavioral effect when  inhaled. They are used to achieve a euphoric state and for their psychotropic effect. Many household chemicals are used as inhalants; solvents like paint thinner, acetone, gasoline or toluene; aerosols like paint, starting fluid or brake cleaner, hair spray or dust off; gases like nitrous oxide (present in whip cream aerosol containers), helium, ether or freon; and other agents like modeling glue, super glue and markers. These agents are legal, popular and inexpensive but deadly and addictive. 


The inhalation of these chemicals causes oxygen to be displaced in the lungs, partially filling the lungs with the chemical. The chemical is absorbed into the blood and is pumped to the brain. In general. these chemicals, along with the accompanying decrease in oxygen concentration, cause brain damage.  Inhalants  generally dissolve the fat contained in brain cells resulting in more brain cell injury or brain cell death.

Inhalants are most commonly used by teens and are a gateway to more dangerous drugs. Inhalants may be “huffed” (soaking a rag), “sniffed” or “dusted (directly from the container), or used by “bagging” (vapors inhaled from a bag). “Dusting” is the use of Dust Off spray or Air Duster used to clean computer keyboards. Inhaling these products can produce chemical burns or cold-temperature burns on the tongue, lips, face, and fingertips. The chemicals inside these products evaporate quickly at room temperature causing them cool quickly. In fact, frost may be seen on the end of the delivery straw.


Indicators of Inhalant use:

• Odor of Inhalant
• Residue of us on nose, mouth, hands
• Slurred speech
• Dazed appearance
• Lack of muscle control
• Complaints of headaches
• Liver & lung damage


Street Names / Slang terms Associated with Inhalants: 


Dusting, Whippets, Huffing, Amy, Aimies, Boppers, Hippie Crack, Bagging, Laughing Gas, Poppers, Rush Snappers, Spray, Texas Shoe Shine, Huff, Gluey, Zombie Juice, Gas Up

Drug Effects


The effects of inhalants vary widely, depending on the dose and the type of solvent, and may include general impairment as is seen in alcohol intoxication, distortion of the perception of time and space and hallucinations. Most users will have headache, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, and loss of motor coordination. A characteristic “glue sniffers rash” may occur around the nose and mouth. 




Inhalation of volatile hydrocarbons may cause heart, brain or kidney damage. One of the most common and serious immediate complications is chemical pneumonitis. Prolonged use may cause hypoxia (low oxygen concentration) and asphyxia, pneumonia, heart failure, liver damage and kidney failure. Death may occur from sedation, vomiting and aspiration of vomit. 


Effects on newborns, infants and children

Mothers who abuse inhalants have an increased risk of spontaneous abortion. Newborns may have the Fetal Toluene Syndrome following mother’s exposure to inhaled toluene, a common propellant in aerosol cans. The affected infant looks very similar to the infant with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and has similar neurological and developmental problems.

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