Inhalant Abuse

man abusing inhalants

A number of products stored in the average American household are transformed into vapor when they’re exposed to air. Often, this vapor comes with a nasty smell, and the products are plastered with warnings that remind people to use the substances in well-ventilated areas only. But if a user can get past the smell, inhaling these vapors can sometimes result in a sensation akin to getting drunk or high. The intentional inhalation of vapors for the purpose of intoxication is known as inhalant abuse, and it’s a serious problem.

Who Abuses Inhalants?

Inhalant abuse is often associated with people between the ages of 12 and 15, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. People in this age group simply can’t buy other intoxicants like alcohol, and they might be prone to taking risks to impress their friends. For young people, inhalants represent an opportunity to get high and rebel, without breaking the law and facing an arrest.

However, adults can also abuse inhalants. In fact, in 2008, the majority of people who enrolled in treatment programs for inhalant abuse were 18 or older, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. While adults could almost certainly lean on alcohol or other legal products in order to get high, inhalants might seem like safe and benign intoxicants to these adults, particularly if they’ve been abusing the substances since childhood.

What Are Common Targets?

There are a number of products people can lean upon in an inhalant abuse episode, including:

  • Shoe polish
  • Paint thinner
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Rubber cement
  • Oven cleaner
  • Spray paint
  • Markers
  • Propellants

Users can open jars of these products and take a deep breath, or they might spray some products into a bag and inhale the contents. Some users soak rags in the products they inhale, and they place those rags inside of bags in order to inhale the contents.An inhalant high is relatively short-lived, lasting for just a few moments, so it’s not uncommon for users to take multiple hits in one session. Some users even smear inhalants on their clothes, so they can take hits throughout the day.

What Should Be Done?

People who abuse inhalants are taking huge risks with their health. These products can do long-term damage to the body’s vital organs, including the kidneys and the lungs. Inhalant abusers can also suffocate if they’re breathing in replacement products instead of the oxygen that their bodies need in order to survive. Users can also experience sudden death, as some products cause heartbeat abnormalities and a loss of consciousness.

The consequences of this kind of abuse can be frightening, but thankfully, this is not a subtle form of drug abuse. People who are hooked on these substances often carry the objects of their abuse with them, and they often smell like the products they huff. In some cases, users even have marks of paint or ink on their mouths and noses, indicating their habits quite clearly. Looking for these signs can help families to take action and stop the behavior before it progresses.

At The Oaks at La Paloma, we’d like to help. We offer a full-service recovery program for adults with inhalant addictions, including counseling, support group work, alternative therapies and more. Please call us, and our admissions coordinators can explain how the enrollment process works.