Inhalants are substances that produce chemical vapors that, when inhaled, result in mind-altering effects. The term inhalant is used because these substances are rarely, if ever, abused by any other means. These substances are common household, industrial, or medical products. But most people do not think of them as drugs, because they are not meant to be used in that way.
Inhalants commonly abused include:
When inhalants are breathed, they cause alcohol-like effects: slurred speech, lack of coordination, and dizziness. The person can become lightheaded and may have hallucinations and delusions. The effects last only a few minutes. After heavy use of an inhalant, the person may have a headache and feel drowsy for several hours. The person who inhales repeatedly over several hours can lose consciousness and die.
Aerosols can be sprayed directly into the nose or mouth. Nitrous oxide can be inhaled directly from balloons. Several terms are used for the way inhalants are breathed into the lungs, including:
Long-term health problems, such as brain, liver, kidney, blood, or bone marrow damage, can occur from inhaling some substances. Long-term abuse of inhalants also causes:
Inhalants are often not detected with urine or blood drug screening tests, because they have usually been eliminated from the body by the time the test is done.
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