Inhalants are a type of substances that can produce mind-altering effects. They work as a depressant on an individual’s nervous system, causing the brain to process information more slowly. When the fumes of certain chemicals are inhaled, they elicit rapid, pleasurable feelings that have been compared to that which is experienced when one is drunk on alcohol. In addition to these pleasurable feelings, individuals who use inhalants tend to experience a loss of inhibition, which is then often followed by a sense of drowsiness and/or lightheadedness.
There are a number of different types of inhalants that people abuse, yet the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that one classification system is typically used to compile the different types of inhalants into four categories. These categories include:
- Volatile solvents – Volatile solvents are liquids that are vaporized when they reach room temperature. Examples of volatile solvents include glues, correction fluids, paint thinners, and felt-tip markers.
- Gases – Gases that are frequently abused can be found in various household products, as well as medical anesthetics.
- Aerosols – Aerosols refer to sprays that contain propellants and solvents. Examples of aerosols include hair spray, fabric protector sprays, and spray paint.
- Nitrites – Nitrites refer to a class of inhalants that relax muscles and dilate blood vessels instead of directly impacting the central nervous system like other types of inhalants do.
When individuals have developed a pattern of using inhalants to the point that they are unable to stop using the substance, or to the point where their ability to function appropriately has become hindered, they are likely suffering from inhalant use disorder. When this is the case, it is often necessary for these individuals to receive professional help at a residential treatment & rehab center in order to overcome their compulsive desire to use inhalants.
Research has shown that inhalant abuse is most prevalent among adolescents and young adults. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 0.1% of the population between the ages of 18 and 29 in the United States suffer from inhalant use disorder. When the entire population of adults over the age of 18 is taken into account, a total of 0.02% are said to be battling this disorder.
Causes and Risk Factors for Inhalant Abuse
The causes and risk factors that can impact an individual’s susceptibility to developing inhalant use disorder are discussed briefly in the following:
Genetic: According to the APA, behavioral disinhibition, which can increase the likelihood that an individual will abuse inhalants, is a heritable condition. When individuals possess this type of disinhibition, they are more likely to participate in high-risk behaviors, despite knowing how detrimental the outcomes can be. Abusing inhalants is one such type of high-risk behavior. Additionally, when individuals have family members who abuse substances, with rehab at a treatment center, they are more likely to abuse substances themselves than are individuals who do not have the same type of family background.
Environmental: Inhalant substances are widely available, easily obtainable, and legal to purchase. For this reason, the ease of accessibility that individuals have to the substance can increase the likelihood that they will begin to abuse it. In addition, the APA notes that individuals who have a history of childhood maltreatment or experiencing a trauma are more likely to abuse inhalants.
- Personal history of conduct disorder
- Personal history of antisocial personality disorder
- Personal history of other mental health conditions
- Family history of substance abuse concerns
- Having easy access to obtaining inhalant substances
- Being around other people who abuse inhalants or other substances
- Suffering from maltreatment or trauma as a child
Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse
The signs and symptoms that are displayed by individuals who abuse inhalants will vary from person-to-person, but may include some, or all, of the following:
- Belligerent behaviors
- Wearing clothes that have a chemical odor
- Displaying impaired functioning in social and occupational settings
- Refraining from engaging in activities that one once found enjoyable
- Taking inhalants in larger amounts or over longer periods of time than one intended
- Finding oneself unable to cease using inhalants, despite having the desire to do so
- Decline is occupational performance
- No longer adhering to daily tasks and responsibilities
- Continuing to use inhalants despite the onset of adversities that are directly linked to that use
- Slurred speech
- Sleep disturbances
- Having spots or sores inside or around one’s mouth
- Stained fingernails
- Blurred vision
- Muscle weakness
- Hearing loss
- Loss of one’s sense of smell
- Unsteady gait
- Concentration difficulties
- Delayed reflexes
- Developing tolerance, or a need to increase the amount of inhalants that one is consuming in order to achieve the desired effect
- Emotional upheaval (ranging from irritability to excitability)
- Feelings of euphoria
Effects of Inhalant Abuse
When individuals abuse inhalants, they are susceptible to experiencing many adverse effects. Examples of these effects may include:
- Relationship disturbances
- Marital discord
- Job loss due to poor work performance, frequent absences from work, and/or engaging in erratic behavior as a result of using inhalants
- Temporary blindness
- Bone marrow suppression
- Memory loss
- Loss of hearing
- Loss of one’s sense of smell
- Reduced muscle tone
- Brain, liver, and/or kidney damage
- Cognitive difficulties
- Death as a result of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome
Additionally, according to the American Psychiatric Association, long-term users of inhalants are more susceptible to suffer from the following:
- Death as a result of respiratory depression, asphyxiation, or arrhythmias
Individuals who suffer from inhalant use disorder are vulnerable to suffering from the symptoms of other mental health conditions as well. Examples of possible co-occurring disorders include:
- Conduct disorder
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Other substance use disorders
Effects of Inhalant Withdrawal and Overdose
Effects of inhalant withdrawal: When a pattern of inhalant abuse has developed, but then the behavior is suddenly stopped, individuals are susceptible to experiencing a period of withdrawal. Symptoms of inhalant withdrawal may include:
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle cramps
Effects of inhalant overdose: Any time that a person abuses an inhalant, he or she is at risk for overdosing due to the chemical properties that inhalants are composed of. Examples of possible signs that could indicate that someone has overdosed on an inhalant may include:
- Excessive drowsiness
- Falling into a coma
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Significantly slurred speech
- Severe confusion or delirium
Why Consider Treatment for Inhalant Abuse at our Rehab Centers in Newport Beach
When people suffer from an ongoing compulsion to abuse inhalants, they may need professional help in order to overcome their addiction. By receiving such an intervention, individuals can overcome their addiction and avoid future detrimental consequences.
While there are various different types of treatment options available to individuals who are battling inhalant use disorder, residential treatment at a rehab center is often one of the most effective. When individuals engage in residential treatment, they are protected from having access to inhalants, therefore providing their bodies with time to not only recover from the damage that may have been done, but also preventing them from causing further damage. In a residential setting, individuals are able to place all of their time, energy, and focus on overcoming their addiction.
Sober Living by the Sea is a network of premier treatment providers who specialize in providing comprehensive care to men and women who are battling an addiction to any type of substance, including inhalants. These providers, which include The Landing, Sunrise Recovery Ranch, and The Rose, offer various forms of treatment, including residential treatment & rehab, that are customized to meet each individual’s specific needs. The knowledgeable, caring, and compassionate staff at each of these treatment centers will work tirelessly to help each individual who is entrusted into their care overcome their addictions and embark on a future that is filled with hope and sobriety.