- Article SummaryPrint
- What Is an Inhalant?
- What Are the Effects of Long-Term Inhalant Abuse?
- Who Can Help Me?
When most people think of drugs, they think of powders or pills bought on the street. In fact, many drugs that teen abuse can be found in just about any household in the U.S. Sprays, glue and felt-tip pens all contain various inhalants, and these chemicals can be deadly to an unsuspecting teenager. These dangerous drugs can, if misused, kill.
What Is an Inhalant?
An inhalant is a chemical that can be inhaled to create some sort of change within the body. One of the most familiar types of inhalant is the asthma inhaler, a pressurized canister that sprays out a mist of steroids that dilate the airways, making breathing easier. This is an example of a beneficial inhalant.
There are other types of inhalants, however. These inhalants are frequently used to get high, and they generally fall into one of three categories:
The nitrite category includes some of the less dangerous inhalants, including amyl nitrite and isopropyl nitrite, all of which are known as poppers or alkyl nitrites. According to a paper by Nutt, King, Blakemore and Saulsbury that was published in the Lancet in 2007, alkyl nitrites are generally regarded as being very low risk in terms of dependence and the risk of harm to the user.
Like other major illicit inhalants, alkyl nitrites produce a relaxing effect. They are particularly effective at relaxing the smooth muscles around the anus and vagina, and some people use poppers before having sex.
Naturally, poppers do have a dangerous side. If you swallow the fluid rather than sniffing it, you could do serious damage to your stomach, colon and intestines. In addition, if you accidentally breathe in the liquid, you could cause chemical pneumonia, which could be fatal.
Aerosols are more harmful than poppers because they can cause long-term damage and dependence. An aerosol is a solid or liquid that is suspended in a gas. The gas used to be a CFC, but these were banned because they were harmful to the environment and were replaced by a low-weight volatile hydrocarbon such as butane or isobutane. While kinder to the environment, these gases can still damage people's health. Typically, an addict sprays the aerosol into a bag and the fumes are then breathed in.
The final category of inhalants covers a wide range of solvents. A solvent is a substance in which something dissolves. Technically, this could include water, although water is about the only virtually safe solvent, and alcohol. In general, though, solvents refer to volatile organic compounds that evaporate easily, and these compounds are found in a huge range of goods. Nail polish remover, paint, correction fluid and glue are all sources of solvents, and these are very easy to obtain. These might be placed into a bag and breathed in or placed on a rag to inhale. Some teenagers place the substance in a plastic bag and put their heads in it, which can lead to suffocation if they fall unconscious.
The euphoria and drowsiness experienced by those who abuse inhalants last between 15 and 45 minutes. The comedown, however, is often horrendous as the body is not able to deal with the simple hydrocarbons floating around in it.
A teen with an inhalant addiction problem needs help fast. If you feel as though you have a problem with inhalants, please call us at 1-800-928-9139 today. A trained advisor will chat with you and suggest the first steps you can take to reclaim your life.
What Are the Effects of Long-Term Inhalant Abuse?
The short-term effects of inhalant abuse vary widely. Depending on the substance used, they include:
- Dizziness, drowsiness and an inability to concentrate
- Nausea, an upset stomach and vomiting
- Slurred speech, muscle weakness and loss of coordination
- Headache and confusion
Long-term abuse leads to more serious problems. Most of the above can become permanent, especially muscle weakness and general loss of coordination, as the body's central nervous system is slowly destroyed the more solvents and other inhalants are used. The long-term effects include:
- Heart, kidney and liver problems
- Convulsions, seizures and coma
- Choking, drowning and asphyxiation
According to Solve It, a UK-based charity that raises awareness of solvent and inhalant abuse, the majority of inhalant abusers are between the ages of 11 and 16. Being addicted to inhalants can be life threatening, and you need to seek help today.
Who Can Help Me?
Your best option is to talk to someone. This can be a trusted adult or a mature friend who is not involved in solvent or inhalant abuse. You can also phone us at 1-800-928-9139 for confidential advice.
Ultimately, you may need to a stay in a rehab clinic. These facilities are designed to help addicts recover from various addictions, including inhalant addiction. Some deal specifically with teenagers, and a recovering inhalant addict will often be sent to one of these programs if he or she is under a certain age.
Rehab will help you to kick the habit and repair the damage done. It may offer courses on healthy life skills, outline a specific diet that will lower the strain on certain organs, and treat any underlying causes, such as depression, anxiety or panic disorder.
In addition, rehab offers you counseling to help you understand why you started using inhalants. By treating the addiction like this, the counselor helps you to comprehend its root causes - things you may have buried under a sea of solvents. This will lead on to discussing methods of avoiding abusing solvents, including coping strategies. Unlike many drugs, solvents and inhalants are everywhere, so it is hard to completely avoid them. Instead, the counselor may focus on solving the issues that caused you to turn to these destructive drugs so you aren't tempted to use them, even if they are around the house.
Finally, you will build a support network while inside the rehab center. This may involve joining support groups and linking up with friends you have made during your time at the addiction clinic. These people will understand what you are going through, so make sure you talk to them to bolster your willpower.