A fumes from a balloon or paper bag.The

A quick high is not the only result of inhalant use.

Abusing inhalants has both short-term and long-term effects. These effects can even damage the body permanently or result in death.

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What Are Inhalants?

The first thing that pops into your mind when you hear someone mention drug abuse is probably not common everyday items found in a cleaning cabinet or garage. Unfortunately, these items are easy to obtain and can be inappropriately used to produce a state of intoxication.Inhalants are vapors from toxic substances, which are inhaled in order to become intoxicated.

Many common substances found in the home can produce these chemical vapors. Inhalant abuse involves breathing in these vapors in concentrated amounts by sniffing them directly from a container, inhaling through rags soaked in the chemicals, or inhaling captured fumes from a balloon or paper bag.The high that results from inhalant abuse only lasts a few minutes, so many people will inhale these chemicals for long periods of time to maintain the feeling of intoxication.

This increases the amount of dangerous chemicals entering and causing damage to the body.

Short-Term Effects

Short-term effects of inhalant abuse involve the temporary reaction of a person’s body to the chemicals that are being inhaled. These effects will go away once the chemical leaves the body.Most abused inhalants act to suppress the activity of the central nervous system, or the brain and spinal cord. The outward effects of this are similar to alcohol intoxication. You may notice slurred speech or lack of coordination.

The greater the amount of chemical a person inhales, the less control they have over their actions. After abusing an inhalant, a person may be sleepy and have a lingering headache.Chemicals found in different types of inhaled products may produce a variety of other short-term effects, such as nausea or vomiting, as well as an increased heart rate, hallucinations, or the person may experience a loss of consciousness.Nitrates are a different class of inhalants that react differently in the body.

Nitrites dilate and relax the blood vessels.

Long-Term Effects

Unfortunately, not all of the effects of inhalant abuse are temporary. There are many, more serious long-term consequences to inhalant abuse.

Inhalants typically contain more than one chemical. The chemical that produces a high may leave the body quickly, but other chemicals do not. These chemicals are absorbed by the fatty tissues in the brain and central nervous system, causing serious problems over time.The long-term effects of inhalant abuse can include:

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of the sense of smell
  • Damage to bone marrow
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Nerve damage, resulting in loss of control of movement
  • Mental illness
  • Memory loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heart damage

The long-term effects of inhalant abuse are not reversible. The resulting damage cannot be repaired, even if the person stops abusing inhalants.

How Inhalants Kill

Inhalant abuse can kill. Death can be an eventual result of the long-term damage within the body. Death can also occur within minutes of a person’s first use. In fact, the most common cause of death from inhalant use, sudden sniffing death, can occur after the first use of an inhalant, the 10th, or the 100th. It occurs when a person uses an inhalant, goes into cardiac arrest, and dies. There is no way to predict when or if it will happen.Some other ways that inhalants can be lethal with use include:

  • Asphyxia, suffocation, or choking
  • Accidental injuries and an increased risk of suicide
  • Inducing severe seizures or a coma

Lesson Summary

Inhalants are vapors from toxic substances, which are inhaled in order to become intoxicated.

Intoxication only lasts a few minutes after inhalant use. Because of this, many people will inhale the chemicals for long periods of time in order to prolong the feeling. The result is an increase in the amount of dangerous chemicals entering and causing damage to the body.The temporary reaction a person’s body has to the chemicals being inhaled are the short-term effects of inhalant abuse. These effects will go away once the chemical leaves the body. Not all of the effects of inhalant abuse are temporary. Many more serious long-term consequences to inhalant abuse also exist.

The chemical in an inhalant that produces a high may leave the body quickly, but more than one chemical is present in these substances. Some chemicals remain in the body for long periods of time. These chemicals are absorbed by the fatty tissues in the brain and central nervous system, causing serious damage to the body.The long-term effects of inhalant abuse are not reversible.

This means that even if the person stops abusing inhalants, the resulting damage cannot be repaired.Inhalant abuse can result in death. Death can occur within minutes of a person’s first use or be the result of long-term damage within the body.

The most common cause of death from inhalant use is sudden sniffing death, when a person uses an inhalant, goes into cardiac arrest, and dies. It can occur any time a person uses an inhalant.

Learning outcomes

When you are finished, you should be able to:

  • Recall what inhalants are and how they are used to get high
  • Recite and discuss the short- and long-term effects of inhalant abuse
  • Explain how inhalant use can result in death
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