Inhalants & The drug

The drug that is used in the form of suspended solid or liquid particles in a gaseous medium or solvent which are inhaled as vapor is known as inhalant. Inhalants are used for both medicinal reasons as well as recreational drug for their exhilarating effect. They are the drugs that produce rapid, momentary high lightheadedness and euphoria when their vapors or gases are inhaled and absorbed into the body through lungs. The euphoria feeling tends to last for short duration from few minutes to three quarters of an hour. It may be followed by after effects such as sleepiness, headache or nausea.

The utilization of inhalants can cause serious damages and in some cases they may lead to death. The recreational uses of inhalants are restricted and even declared illegal in some jurisdictions When compared to other recreational drugs, inhalers are easily accessible and moderately inexpensive. Inhalers are found in range of cheap, legally obtainable household, offices, industrial and automotive manufactured goods. Solvents which are used as inhalants include toluene and acetone which are found in household and office products (Anderson, 2007).

The products in which these inhalants are found include liquid paper, nail polish removers and permanent markers. Propellant gases such as Freon and hydro-fluorocarbons are found in air fresheners, computer keyboard cleaning sprays, insecticides, aerosol hairsprays, whipped cream cans sprays, etc. Solvents are also found in turpentine, gasoline, paints, spray paints, adhesives and cements such as rubber and plastic cement. Many individuals think that these products are not drugs because they are never meant to accomplish an intoxicating effect. Types of Inhalants

Inhalants are of four types. They are organic solvents, nitrites, aerosols and gaseous forms. Organic solvents are liquid compounds of carbon that have the ability to collapse or adjourn other carbon compounds. Organic solvents are highly prone to evaporation. They can readily evaporate from a liquid to gas which can be used as an inhalant. Various common products are based on organic solvents or contain excessive concentrations of them. Products such as paint thinners and removers, glues, spray paints, nail polish removers, degreasers, cleaning fluids are all based on organic solvents.

They are the readily obtainable and the most hazardous to abuse. The fumes of the organic solvents can be inhaled from their containers (Anderson, 2007). Solvents in liquid form can be sprayed in an absorbent material such as roll of toilet paper or socks to increase the release of fumes. Individuals using inhalants try to distillate the vapors by placing the solvent inside a paper of plastic bag and then holding the open end over the mouth and nose. Substances held in containers are found in items such as spray paints, hair sprays, deodorants, vegetable oil sprays, computer cleaning products and deodorants.

Gases that are found in household and commercial products or are used in the field of medicine that are used as recreational drugs and can be inhaled include butane lighters and propane tanks, whipping cream sprays, refrigerant gases, chloroform, halothane and nitrous oxides (Anderson, 2007). Nitrites are the compounds of nitrogen and act mainly as driving force that expands the blood vessels, which in turn reduces resistance to flow of blood. If nitrites are used, they tend to lower the functioning of the central nervous system and produces overexcitement and euphoria.

Nitrites include amyl nitrite and butyl nitrite. The capsules of amyl nitrate are trampled and inhaled through the nose. Butyl Nitrate is inhaled in any container or can be applied to any absorbent material. Extent of Use The research conducted by National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2006 found out that approximately 22. 9 million Americans aged 12 or older were found to use inhalants once during their lifetimes, representing about 9. 3 percent of the population aged 12 or older (Banken, 2006).

Research conducted also showed that 783000 persons aged 12 or older had availed the opportunity to use inhalants for the first time; 77. 2% users of inhalants were found to be aged 12 to 17 when they first used (Banken, 2006). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also conducted surveys of high school students throughout the United States and it was reported that 12. 4% of the students have used inhalants once during their lifetimes. Research conduct by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2004 showed that approximately 13. 6 percent state prisoner and 7.

5 percent of Federal prisoners were found to use inhalants in some point of their lives. The research conducted by the U. S Department of Health and Human Services showed that suffocation caused by inhaling inhalants cause about 15% of deaths and accidents (Banken, 2006). It was also found out that 55% deaths due to inhalant abuse are due to Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome that can occur when the user is using the drug for the first time. Studies also showed that 22% of the users who died from Sudden Sniff Death Syndrome had no history of previous inhalant abuse (Banken, 2006).

Treatment From 1996 to 2006, it was found out that the number of admissions to treatment in which inhalant was the primary drug used by the patient declined from 1974 in 1996 to 1034 in 2006 (Banken, 2006). However, those patients who were admitted for the treatment of inhalants were under the age of 20. Harmful Effects of Inhalants Inhalants are considered to be very effective poisons. They enter through flow of blood circulating through the blood vessels and are then circulated throughout the brain and body.

They directly affect the central and peripheral nervous system. According to Dr David Shurtleff, who is the head of the Division of Basic Neurosciences and Behavior Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, inhalants can affect the ability to think, memory, hear and even work (Banken, 2006). They are highly addictive and can affect the entire body. Inhalants are capable of causing hearing loss, vision loss. It can also have hazardous affects on lungs, livers, heart, muscles and bone marrow. According to Dr Nora D.

Volkow, the director of National Institute on Drug Abuse, the high concentrations of inhalants can lower the oxygen inside the body and can cause death from cardiac arrest (Banken, 2006). Inhalants like toluene can damage myelin as well as the liver and kidneys. Inhalants like benzene can affect the body’s capability to produce blood cells which can lead to aplastic anemia. Several other inhalants can lead to hepatitis, failure of liver, muscle weakness, irritability and depression. Inhalants like nitrous oxide can damage the peripheral nervous system, causing deadness, stinging and paralysis.

Inhalants are responsible for quick modifications in the blood pressure resulting in black outs and fainting. Inhalants are responsible for causing hear loss by harming the hairs of inner ear or by affecting myelin on the nerves. Inhalants are responsible altering the brain chemistry and permanently injure the central nervous system. They are responsible to harm the liver and kidney affecting vital functions such as filtration of harmful substances out of the body. They can also damage the bone marrow, enhancing the risk of blood cancer aplastic anemia.

Effect of Inhalants Inhalant fumes are compounds that comprise more than one chemical. The chemicals are absorbed by the fatty issues present in the nervous system including the brain. One of the fatty issues that absorb inhalants is myelin which is the protective cover that surrounds the body’s nerve cells (Brick, 2007). The deterioration of myelin can lead to muscle spasm, tremors and even lead to difficulty in actions like walking, bending and talking. Conclusion Inhalants are used by children, teenagers, adults because of they are readily available.

The most common users of inhalants are young people who become very constant, extreme inhalant users. According to a research conducted, the most serious inhalant users found in United States are homeless children who are completed abandoned by the society. These users are using inhalants at high levels. The reason why inhalant use is so common is because of destitution, lack of opportunity and social dysfunction. Inhalants are also very dangerous for the human health but are often mistaken to be harmless. There is a need to create awareness among individuals to clear this misconception.

Inhalants are the cause of many fatal diseases such as blood cancer, aplastic anemia, failure of organs like kidney, liver, and damage of central nervous system.


Anderson CE; Loomis GA. Recognition and prevention of inhalant abuse. American Family Physician 68(5): 869-874, 2007. (22 refs. ) Banken JA. Drug abuse trends among youth in the United States. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Current Status of Drug Dependence/Abuse 1025: 465-471, 2006. Brick J, ed. Handbook of the Medical Consequences of Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Binghamton NY: Haworth Medical Press, 2007.

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