How Are Inhalants Abused?
How Do Inhalants Affect the Brain?
What Are the Other Health Effects of Inhalants?
Unlike other types of inhalants, nitrites enhance sexual pleasure by dilating and relaxing blood vessels.
Although it is not very common, addiction to inhalants can occur with repeated abuse.
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 more serious long-term consequences. These may include liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, or bone marrow damage. Effects may also include loss of coordination and limb spasms due to damage to myelin—a protective sheathing around nerve fibers that helps nerves transmit messages in the brain and peripheral nervous system. Inhalants can also cause brain damage by cutting off oxygen flow to the brain.
Inhalants can even be lethal. Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly cause heart failure within minutes. This syndrome, known as “sudden sniffing death,” can result from a single session of inhalant use by an otherwise healthy young person. High concentrations of inhalants may also cause death from suffocation, especially when inhaled from a paper or plastic bag or in a closed area. Even when using aerosols or volatile products for their legitimate purposes like painting or cleaning, it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.
Nitrites are a special class of inhalants that are abused to enhance sexual pleasure and performance. They can be associated with unsafe sexual practices that increase the risk of contracting and spreading infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
Volatile solvents—liquids that vaporize at room temperature
Industrial or household products, including paint thinners or removers, degreasers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, and lighter fluid
Art or office supply solvents, including correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluid, electronic contact cleaners, and glue
Aerosols—sprays that contain propellants and solvents
Household aerosol propellants in items such as spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, fabric protector sprays, aerosol computer cleaning products, and vegetable oil sprays
Gases—found in household or commercial products and used as medical anesthetics
Household or commercial products, including butane lighters and propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets), and refrigerant gases.
Nitrites—used primarily as sexual enhancersInhalants
Organic nitrites are volatiles that includes cyclohexyl, butyl, and amyl nitrites, commonly known as “poppers.” Amyl nitrite is still used in certain diagnostic medical procedures. When marketed for illicit use, organic nitrites are often sold in small brown bottles labeled as “video head cleaner,” “room odorizer,” “leather cleaner,” or “liquid aroma.”
A gas used as a propellant in whipped cream aerosol containers, nitrous oxide, is used as a recreational drug. A whipped cream charger (also called whippits, whippets nossies, nangs, or chargers) is a steel cylinder or cartridge filled with nitrous oxide (N2O) that is used as a whipping agent in a whipped cream dispenser. The narrow end of a charger has a foil covering which is broken to release the gas.
More information in the Inhalant Brochure.
Drug Identification Guide
CDC Addiction Info
CDC Overdose Stats
CDC Substance Treatment
Whitehouse Drug-Free Communities
Samhsa Workplace Programs
Federal Register Codification