The danger of inhalants is that users may not realize the risks they are taking
because the effects they feel are so brief. Because of this, abuse of inhalants
often occurs more frequently than with other substances. Inhalants aren't drugs.
They are an assortment of chemicals and toxins that, when inhaled, are poisonous
to the brain and body. They include common household items such as spray paints,
air fresheners, glues, correction fluids, lighter fluids, and hair sprays.
There are many dangers associated with huffing inhalants. For example, when
a user is suddenly startled during a huffing episode, the sudden surge of epinephrine
combined with the effects of the inhaled chemicals can lead to fatal cardiac
arrhythmia, a condition called sudden sniffing death syndrome. Also, suffocation
from a plastic bag used to inhale fumes, aspiration and drowning, falls and
other reckless behavior done while on these chemicals are other common dangers
of inhalants. There are no statistics on deaths caused by inhalant abuse in
the United States, but Weiss said the NIPC has been informed of more than 700
fatalities since 1996.
The cheap "high" from sniffing chemicals lasts only a few minutes,
so chronic users often do prolonged huffing episodes. A significant danger of
inhalants is the health risks that the users place themselves in. The health
dangers linked to chronic inhalation of chemicals include:
- Brain damage, which can lead to personality changes, impaired memory, hallucinations,
loss of coordination, slurred speech and vision problems
- Hearing loss from trichloroethylene (used in cleaning and correction fluids)
or toluene (found in spray paints and glues)
- Numbness, tingling or spasms caused by hexane (found in gasoline and glues)
or nitrous oxide (whippets or gas cylinders)
- Reduced muscle tone and strength
- Blood oxygen depletion caused by nitrites (Poppers or Rush) and methylene
chloride found in paint thinners and varnishes. It can cause blackouts.
- Bone marrow damage from benzene, a known cancer-causing agent used in gasoline
- Liver and kidney damage caused by toluene