Effects of inhalants

Young people are attracted to inhalants because most, except nitrites, produce a sense of pleasure by depressing the central nervous system (CNS). Inhalants are easy to find since most are common household items. This can be very dangerous since it’s easy to become dependent on inhalants. When the user attempts to discontinue using, they will likely experience inhalant withdrawal symptoms. Users report feelings similar to intoxication including:

  • Slurred or distorted speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness
  • Hallucinations

Unlike most inhalants that depress the body’s CNS, nitrites are often abused in order to improve sexual function. Nitrites increase sexual pleasure by expanding and relaxing one’s blood vessels (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2017). In addition to the risks posed to the body from inhaling these substances, users put themselves at greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), since using inhalants lowers one’s inhibitions. People are more likely to engage in risky sexual activity that they wouldn’t if they were not under the influence.

The “high” a user will experience from an inhalant is relatively short – only lasting a few minutes. As a result, many users seeking a prolonged “high” will resort to inhaling repeatedly. Successive inhalations are extremely dangerous, sometimes resulting in a person falling out of consciousness or even causing death. Users are also at risk for developing an addiction, resulting in inhalant withdrawal symptoms. Since inhalants contain a variety of chemicals, it’s difficult to predict how long it will take for the chemicals to leave the body. Some leave quickly while others take longer. When a chemical is inhaled, it gets absorbed by the fatty tissues in the brain and CNS. These chemicals can cause serious problems including:

  • Damaged brain cells
    • Brain cells become damaged when they are deprived of adequate oxygen. Lack of oxygen to the brain is known as hypoxia and can result in a variety of permanent health complications including loss of memory, inability to solve problems and issues with movement/coordination.
  • Damaged nerve fibers
    • Long-term inhalant use can result in the breakdown of the protective sheath around nerve fibers in the brain and throughout the body, resulting in the inability for nerve cells to send messages. Signs include muscle spasms and tremors. Some people experience permanent difficulty with basic movements including walking, bending and talking (National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, 2019)

Disturbingly, there are many cases of first-time inhalant users passing away. Just like heroin, all it takes is one time, and a loved one can be lost. Known as “sudden sniffing death”, chemicals contained in inhalants can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms, which can lead to heart failure. Other severe reactions directly resulting from inhalant abuse include:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Suffocation
  • Convulsions/Seizures
  • Coma
  • Choking

Inhalant addiction is uncommon, but it’s not unheard of. Those who develop an addiction to inhalants who attempt to stop on their own may experience some or all the following inhalant withdrawal symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in mood

Treatment for Inhalants

It’s important to do your research prior to selecting a drug treatment center. Not all treatment centers are equal. While laws have cracked down on facilities that were not following proper substance abuse treatment protocols, it’s still crucial to ask the right questions. First, a reputable treatment center will have a doctor overseeing all patient treatment plans. A full patient history and vitals are taken upon admission. Based on the patient’s specifics, the doctor will create a treatment plan tailored to a patient’s individual needs. Secondly, a treatment center should have adequate staff-to-patient ratio. This ensures that all patients receive the care and attention that they need and deserve. For instance, an extremely high patient to staff ratio could be a sign that patients are not receiving adequate one-on-one care. In these types of cases, it may behoove you to look at alternative treatment centers. Lastly, be sure to confirm the amenities available to patients. On average, patients going through detox and rehabilitation will require 21 to 28 days of care; sometimes longer. It’s important to ask what is available during you or your loved ones stay, to ensure that they will be comfortable during their time of treatment.

As a nationally recognized substance abuse treatment center, the team at Daylight Recover Center prides itself in providing effective, compassionate and industry-leading patient care. Our 30-bed treatment center offers one of the lowest patient to staff ratios – meaning every patient receives ample one-on-one care. Our doctor oversees all patient treatment plans and our licensed team of medical professionals provide countless years of experience in the drug and alcohol addiction industry. We believe that in order to lead a fulfilling life, free from substance abuse, a person must address their health in entirety – mind, body and soul. It’s our mission to provide patient care that comes second to none in the safety and comfort of our newly renovated treatment center. Each bed has its own dedicated flat screen television. We have two onsite Chefs who pride themselves in providing delicious and nutritious meals prepared from scratch. Our recreational room offers a variety of books, gaming console, exercise equipment and a 450-gallon saltwater fish tank. You can rest assure that when you choose Daylight Recovery Center, you are receiving treatment for the industry’s leading substance abuse professionals.


National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017, February) What are inhalants? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/inhalants

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens (2019, March) What happens to your brain when you use inhalants? Retrieved from https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/inhalants