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Inhalant Abuse: No Right Channel for Huffing

The other night I was flipping through the channels. I don’t watch a lot of television, but sometimes I just like to see what’s out there. I stopped on a familiar program, one I can’t seem to help watch. It’s about alcohol and drug addiction, and this specific episode was focused on inhalant abuse. Although I work in the field of addiction and recovery, and I know that about 54% of all treatment admissions are related to inhalant abuse, it still throws me a bit.

I suppose it is what it is though, right? We, as addicts, do what we can to get high. We all have our drug of choice. I can’t say I haven’t tried huffing, and basically just stuck to poppers, which are amyl nitrates. They come in small brown bottles and are labeled ‘room odorizor,’ or ‘leather cleaner.’ These labels are clearly a way to get past regulation. But, I think that might have been the limit of what I wanted to do. I had lots of friends who would sniff aerosols. They’d spray hairspray or something else into a handkerchief and cover their nose and mouth until they nearly passed out. They seemed to like it, but I didn’t care for passing out.

It’s been over 19 years since I’ve taken part in huffing or inhalant abuse, so I started doing a bit of research and here are just some tidbits of information I found on some great .gov sites.

4 Types of Inhalants:

  1. Volatile Solvents, liquids that vaporize at room temp (paint thinner, nail polish remover, gasoline)
  2. Aerosols, sprays (spray paint, hair spray, deodorant spray, Pam nonstick spray)
  3. Gases, (butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers)
  4. Nitrates, which are primarily used as sexual enhancers (Amyl nitrates, butyl) and they are often sold in small brown bottles marketed as “video head cleaner,’ room odorizer,’ and ‘leather cleaner.”

Street Names for Inhalants:

Snappers, poppers, whippets, bold and rush.

Why Inhalants Are Used:

  1. Volatile Solvents and Aerosols – the intoxication is similar to alcohol except faster, roughly between 1 and 5 minutes. Recovery is faster too, typically no longer than and hour.
  2. Nitrous oxide – the effects are very quick, and in a rush. The moments typically are not very long, maybe a minute or two. 
  3. Nitrates – the blood rushes to the brain, flooding it with oxygen. There is a sense of exhilaration and sensuality. Smooth muscles like those in the anus are relaxed, especially the anal sphincter, making it popular for those taking part in anal sex.

Signs of Inhalant Abuse

  • slurred speech
  • drunk,
  • dizzy or dazed appearance
  • unusual breath odor
  • chemical smell on clothing
  • paint stains on body or face
  • red eyes
  • runny nose

Bodily Damage From Inhalants:

Brain, some chemicals dissipate quickly while others are absorbed into fatty tissue called Myelin, which ultimately causes spasms and tremors and trouble with basic actions like walking, bending and talking; Heart, loss of oxygen makes heart beat irregularly; kidneys; blood, few blood cells, which can lead to aplastic anemia; lungs, and death.