Sniffing, snorting and huffing are just a few of the terms given to using inhalants to get high. Chemicals in the product alter the user’s mental state. Inhalants are cheap and readily available. Inhalant use usually starts at a young age and begins at home. In fact, with more than 1,000 products containing chemical vapors that can be found in the average household, inhalants are always available. Huffers like to inhale noxious chemicals from magic markers, model airplane glue, nail polish remover and paint thinner. Other favorites include aerosols (hairspray, spray paint, spray deodorants and PAM cooking spray) which often contain toluene.
Gas is another inhalant type frequently abused, found in air conditioners, butane lighters and propane tanks. Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) is the most frequently abused gas inhalant and is found in whipped cream cans and automotive products. Nitrites are typically inhaled to enhance sexual encounters rather than for the euphoric effects that other inhalants provide and adults tend to abuse them more often than adolescents. One form, amyl nitrite, comes in a small, mesh-covered capsule (commonly referred to as “poppers” or “snappers”) that is snapped or popped in to release vapors.
Because inhalants reduce inhibitions, users often engage in unsafe sex, increasing risk for contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Inhaling produces a quick high followed by a letdown phase with drowsiness, lightheadedness and irritability. Vivid hallucination, impaired judgment and other unpredictable symptoms may occur. Addicted inhalers may suffer weight loss, depression, inability to pay attention, muscle weakness and lack of coordination. Serious damage may affect the heart, liver, lungs, brain and kidneys. Inhalant use can become a serious addiction with grave consequences, including coma or death – even from the very first use. Observing behavior closely is the best way to know if someone is at risk.