What are inhalants?
Inhalants are chemicals found in ordinary household or workplace products that people inhale on purpose to get “high.” People often don’t realize that inhaling the fumes of these products, even just once, can be very harmful to the brain and body and can lead to death. In fact, the chemicals found in these products can change the way the brain works and cause other problems in the body.
Although different inhalants cause different effects, they generally fall into one of four categories.
Volatile solvents are liquids that become a gas at room temperature. They are found in:
- paint thinner, nail polish remover, degreaser, dry-cleaning fluid, gasoline, and contact cement
- some art or office supplies, such as correction fluid, felt-tip marker fluid, glue, and electronic contact cleaner
Aerosols are substances under pressure that are released as a fine spray. They include:
- spray paint, hair spray, deodorant spray, vegetable oil sprays, and fabric protector spray
Gases may be in household or commercial products, or used in the medical field to provide pain relief. They are found in:
- butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers, and refrigerant gases
- anesthesia, including ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide (commonly called “laughing gas”).
Nitrites are often sold in small brown bottles labeled as:
- organic nitrites, such as amyl, butyl, and cyclohexyl nitrites and other related compounds
- amyl nitrite, used in the past by doctors to help with chest pain and sometimes used today to diagnose heart problems
- nitrites, now banned (prohibited by the Consumer Product Safety Commission) but can still be found, sold in small bottles labeled as “video head cleaner,” “room odorizer,” “leather cleaner,” or “liquid aroma.”
How Inhalants Are Used
People who use inhalants breathe in the fumes through their nose or mouth, usually by “sniffing,” “snorting,” “bagging,” or “huffing.” It’s called different names depending on the substance and equipment used.