Most people think harmful drugs are found on street corners or in local pharmacies, not cleaning cabinets or garages. But sometimes items commonly found in millions of homes aren’t used for their intended purposes. Some people inhale the chemical vapors produced by common household substances — known as inhalants — to get high. What many of them don’t realize is how dangerous this really is.
Why People Use Inhalants
Inhalants might seem like an alternative to other mood-altering drugs because they are cheap, can be purchased legally, and are easy to obtain. But that doesn’t make them safer. Household products are safe for cleaning, painting, and the other things they’re meant to do. But as inhalants, they can be deadlier than street drugs.
Different Kinds of Inhalants
There are four main types of inhalants: volatile solvents, gases, aerosols, and nitrites. Volatile solvents, gases, and aerosols can alter moods and create a high. Nitrites are believed to create sexual stimulation and enhancement.
Here is what else you need to know about the types of inhalants:
- - Volatile solvents are liquids that become a gas at room temperature. Some examples are paint thinners and removers, gasoline, glues, and felt-tip marker fluids.
- - Gases include medical gases (ether, nitrous oxide), and household or commercial products (butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers that contain nitrous oxide, and refrigerants).
- - Aerosol sprays are some of the most prevalent in the home and they include spray paint, deodorant and hairsprays, vegetable oil cooking sprays, and static cling sprays.
- - Nitrites include cyclohexyl nitrite, amyl nitrite, and butyl nitrite. On the street, they’re called “poppers” or “snappers.” They’re found in some room deodorizers and capsules that release vapors when opened.
Effects on the Body
People inhale chemical vapors in several ways, including sniffing, snorting or spraying the inhalant directly into the nose or mouth, putting it into a bag or other container and then inhaling from there, putting the vapor onto a rag, or inhaling nitrous oxide from balloons.
Because the high from inhalants only lasts a few minutes, some people may inhale over and over again for long periods of time to maintain the high, increasing the amount of dangerous chemicals entering and damaging the body.
Inhalants can cause many changes in the body. Once the vapors enter the system, some are absorbed by parts of the brain and nervous system. All of the inhalants (except nitrites) slow down the body’s functions. The effects of getting high are pretty similar to the effects of drinking alcohol — at first someone gets excited, but then gets tired, has trouble speaking clearly or walking well, gets dizzy, loses inhibitions, and may get agitated.
Anyone who is Huffing needs to seek help to find solutions for dealing with this issue. This could be through a school counselor or a professional therapist or a support group. Whatever the setting, the outcome should be finding healthy outlets for overwhelming feelings. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with Huffing and you don’t know where to turn for help, you can always start by calling Safe2Tell™ at 1-877-542-7233 (SAFE).
For additional information on Huffing, link to The Children’s Hospital website.
 The Children’s Hospital website, August 2006.