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The Damage Done When Using Inhalants

The Damage Done When Using Inhalants | Turning Point of Tampa

If you were advised to take a medication prescribed by your physician and the list of side effects included the following:

Damage to the central nervous system, hearing loss, seizures, limb spasms, brain damage, lung damage, coma, and/or death. 

You most likely wouldn’t take it. However, many people risk damaging themselves in these ways when they use inhalants.

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the definition of an inhalant is:

“… volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect. Although other used substances can be inhaled, the term “inhalants” is used to describe a variety of substances whose main common characteristic is that they are rarely, if ever, taken by any route other than inhalation”, “precise categorization of inhalants is difficult. One classification system lists four general categories of inhalants — volatile solvents, aerosols, gases, and nitrites — based on the forms in which they are often found in household, industrial, and medical products.”

The Cleveland Clinic lists some examples of these, which are commonly used:

Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. They are used for household and industrial purposes. Examples of volatile solvents include: Paint thinners, paint removers, degreasers, gasoline, rubber cement, lighter fluid, glues, nail polish removers, dry cleaning fluids, correction fluids, and felt tip markers. Aerosols containing propellants and solvents. Some examples include: spray paints, spray deodorant, hair spray, Vegetable oil spray, and fabric protector spray.

Other examples include whipped cream canisters commonly referred to as “whippets”, and keyboard cleaners known as “duster”. With even just a single use, these substances cause damage to the body and brain in several ways.

A Weakened Immune System

Our immune system protects us from most diseases we encounter on a daily basis. If we don’t take any unnecessary risks with our health, our bodies are able to fight off most of the invaders that lurk almost everywhere in our environment. There are many forms of bacteria, pathogens, and viruses that we encounter every day which can cause diseases, such as COVID-19, the common cold, allergies, and the flu. An immune system that is not working to fully protect us may make us vulnerable to these conditions and many more. Increasing our vulnerability to disease by using inhalants should be considered an extreme and unnecessary risk to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Damage to internal organs:

Inhalant use also puts extreme stress on the cardiovascular system. When these toxic substances are inhaled, the heart starts beating faster, causing blood pressure to rise quickly. The high obtained from these substances does not last but a few minutes and the user will almost immediately use again, causing yet more stress on the heart and lungs. These can cause extensive and sometimes irreversible damage in a very short amount of time.

Brain Damage

Incurring brain damage is another hazard of inhalant use. The sudden rise in blood pressure can cause stroke. During stroke, a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Should this happen in the wrong area of the brain, sudden death can occur. No matter where this occurs in the brain, extreme damage will be the result. At minimum, experiencing a stroke can make everyday activities such as walking, talking, and getting dressed very difficult.

Psychological Effects

Large doses of these substances can have devastating psychological effects too.

Examples include: Confusion, delirium, experience dizziness, slurred speech, lethargy, depressed reflexes, general muscle weakness, stupor, irritability, hearing loss, tremors, lack of motor coordination, bone marrow toxicity, and vision problems.

Signs and symptoms

There are a few indications that someone may be using inhalants. These include but are not limited to: intense feelings of joy, drowsiness, irritability, general nervousness, easily agitated or excitable.

Other signs of use can include a noticeable chemical odor on breath, hands, and clothes spotted with paint or other stains. The person will also experience behavior changes such as depression or lack of interest. Also, weight loss caused by a decrease in appetite, as well as poor hygiene and grooming. Ulcers and irritated skin around mouth and nose are also indicators that a person is addicted to the high from inhaling these toxic substances.  If someone you care about is exhibiting some or any of these signs or symptoms from use, they need immediate help.


Inhalant use does not show up in a urine drug screening, therefore it must be diagnosed by a medical professional through blood screenings that may show elevated liver enzymes. Specific urine screens can detect chemicals such as toluene or benzene.

However, if a loved one is using inhalants, it will be apparent long before the person seeks medical help.

Physical addiction does not usually occur with use of any of the above-mentioned substances. However, there is a psychological addiction to the high caused by inhaling them.

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