What Are the Common Inhalants and How Are They Harmful?

Inhalants are usually not drugs in and of themselves. Rather, inhalants are generally common household items that contain chemicals that can produce a high. These items are cheap and widely available, which makes them a common drug of choice among young teens who might not have a lot of money or access to other drugs. Those who inhale these chemicals do so because they produce a very quick “high,” or a relaxed euphoric feeling.

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What are the Most Common Inhalants?

The most common inhalants include items like office supplies, craft items, and beauty products. Some more specific examples include the items listed below.

  • Glue
  • Nail polish
  • Nail polish remover
  • Gasoline
  • Deodorant
  • Spray paint
  • Dry erase markers
  • Hairspray
  • Cooking spray
  • Nitrous oxide (from whipped cream canisters)

The above list, of course, does not include all potential inhalants. If a product comes from an aerosol can or has chemicals that vaporize at room temperature, a person could potentially use it as an inhalant.

13.1% of 8th graders in the US have used inhalants.



One specific inhalant type does not come from common household items. These inhalants, called nitrites, are less easily obtained and therefore less abused than other types of inhalants. Doctors used to prescribe nitrites for medical purposes such as chest pain.

In spite of the relative rarity of nitrites, those who are determined to find nitrite inhalants can still find them if they look hard enough. Some people illegally sell nitrites in containers that are disguised to look like room deodorizers, leather polish, or other similar items. Nitrites work differently than other inhalants. Those who abuse nitrites do so to enhance a sexual experience, not to get high.

Are you or your teen struggling with an addiction? Call Rehab Info at 800-492-QUIT.

Are Inhalants Addictive?

Inhalants have a lower addiction rate than that of many other drugs. However, some inhalant users do become addicted to the substances. Those who develop an addiction will dedicate a large amount of time to thinking about, obtaining, and using inhalants.

Addicted individuals who try to quit using inhalants may experience symptoms of withdrawal. Inhalants (other than nitrites) work by slowing down the central nervous system. Much like with alcohol withdrawal, the body may overcompensate, working extra hard to stay awake and function normally. When one quits using inhalants, that person’s body won’t immediately realize that he or she no longer has to work so hard. As a result, this person may experience insomnia, headaches, nausea, and other unpleasant symptoms.

Are Inhalants Dangerous?

Inhalants are extremely dangerous, and they’re made even more dangerous by the fact that young people can simply buy them off the shelves.

The most dangerous risk from using inhalants is the possibility of overdose. The high that comes from inhalants only lasts for a few minutes. Some users try to prolong that high by using a lot of inhalants or by extending their inhalant use over a long period of time. The chemical buildup creates toxicity, and it can lead to a coma, seizure, heart attack, and even death. Overdose can happen no matter how healthy the user might be. Furthermore, one can easily overdose on one’s first experience with inhalants.

Inhalants come with other dangers as well. Short-term dangers include loss of coordination and dizziness. An inhalant user may get injured during a high as a result. Long-term dangers include the items on the list below:

  • Nerve damage
  • Internal organ damage
  • Brain damage
  • Delayed development

Treatment Options

Many inhalant users find success with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT teaches patients how to use simple, practical steps to combat temptations and negative thinking. Some inhalant users may need to stay in a rehab facility, depending on the severity of the addiction. Some rehab centers cater specifically to teenagers and young adults, the demographic that uses inhalants more often than any other group.

Let Rehab Info Help

Are you struggling with an addiction to inhalants? Do you suspect that your child might have a problem with inhalants? You may not be sure where to start. If you’re not sure where to turn for help, Rehab Info can point you in the right direction. We’ll get to know you and your unique situation, and then we’ll go over your treatment options.

Our caring staff members are ready to listen.

Are you ready to get help? Then call 800-492-QUIT today. You don’t have to handle this problem by yourself.
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