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Why People Use Inhalants

Why do people use inhalants? Is it to escape from reality, fit in, get high? Each person experiments and uses inhalants for a different reason. We will discuss on this page several of these reasons.

Solvents are inhaled through the lungs and into the bloodstream. The effects are felt very quickly after use and users soon look and feel as if they are drunk. A brief "high" is then followed by a period of drowsiness which can last for one to two hours. More experienced users can remain intoxicated for longer by inhaling periodically to maintain their high. With increasing doses, inhalant users may:

  • lose inhibitions
  • feel exhilarated ("high")
  • get clumsy and slur their words
  • have trouble making sensible decisions
  • get sleepy and slow-moving
  • experience ringing in the ears, dizziness and blurred vision
  • become nervous, upset and disoriented
  • have headaches and chest and stomach pains
  • feel nauseous and throw up
  • have weak muscles and difficulty speaking
  • behave disruptively or hallucinate (imagine things that aren't there)
  • have psychotic-like reactions to inhaling (e.g., injure themselves because they think they can fly or stop a train.)
  • become aggressive and violent

Many times, people use inhalants to escape their problems. In turn, they end up creating more problems relating to all areas of their life. Young people who use inhalants may not learn how to solve problems, manage emotions and become mature, responsible adults.

People often start using inhalants because they are available, convenient, legal, and they can sober up within a short period of time. Young people usually between the ages of seven and seventeen are the most likely to use and abuse inhalants.

Often times, use begins when children learn from friends or an older sibling. Also, if a child learns early on that they like the way something smells, such as a fruity smelling marker, and they like the way it makes them feel when they are smelling it, they might continue to inhale that as well as other substances to getting that "good" feeling. To prevent the misuse of inhalants, teach children early on (ages 4-5) about the poisons that make up inhalants and why they are harmful.


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