Inhalants are a range of chemical products that are inhaled to produce a feeling of being high. Inhalants can be common household products like glue, shoe polish, and aerosol sprays. These products are safe when used as intended, but they can be dangerous and even deadly when sniffed or “huffed” to get high.
The effects of inhalants. As with any drug, the effects of using inhalants varies from person to person depending on factors such as your size (height and weight), your health, when you’ve eaten, your mood when the inhalant is taken, whether you’ve taken other drugs, how much you’ve inhaled, whether you have developed tolerance or immunity to the inhalant, and where the inhalant is taken (e.g. dance party or a quieter environment). Inhalants are depressants which means their effects are similar to those of alcohol or marijuana.
Tolerance and dependence. Tolerance and dependence can develop with regular use of inhalants. Tolerance means the effects you experience from taking a drug decrease so that larger doses are required to achieve the desired effect. Dependence occurs when taking a drug produces tolerance and withdrawal symptoms that occur when you try to stop taking the drug or reduce usage. What this means is that you could begin to crave using the drug and could find it very difficult to stop using it. Stopping suddenly after regular use can cause withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite, irritation, aggressive behavior, dizziness, tremors, and nausea.
Driving or operating a car or other heavy machinery. Driving or operating heavy machinery while huffing is dangerous and unsafe because it affects your ability to judge speed and distance, which increases the chances of serious accidents and injury. It’s illegal to drive under the influence of any drug, including inhalants.
Inhalants and the law. While many of the household and industrial products that can be used as inhalants are legal, many states have enacted laws to address the issues of inhalant use among minors. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 38 states have adopted laws preventing the sale, use, and distribution of commonly inhaled products to minors. Some states now have fines, imprisonment, or mandatory treatment for breaking these laws.
Getting help. If you’re worried about your use of inhalants and think it’s becoming a problem and/or want to talk to someone, call 1-800-662-HELP(Spanish: 800-662-9832), the treatment referral hotline supported by the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. You might also check out the getting help for drug use fact sheet.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.