Inhaling toxic chemicals is commonly referred to “huffing” or “sniffing.” Inhalants come in a variety of forms and can be addictive both psychologically and physically with repeated use. However, psychological addiction is more common. Many inhalants can be found around the house in your garage or in every day cleaning supplies. In addition, food products, glues and bath salts are among other types of inhalants. However, vapors from many other dangerous chemicals found elsewhere can also induce an altering effect on the mind and body. One may think that inhalants are less dangerous because they are legal and cost less but that is not true. They are just as dangerous and addictive as most illegal street drugs. Inhalants are even considered to be a gateway drug, meaning that using them may lead to illegal substance use and abuse. When inhalants are abused they can lead to life threatening conditions and even be deadly.
Effects on the Body
Inhalants can lead to severe damage of all the body’s major organs such as the heart, kidneys and liver. In addition to organ damage, continued use of inhalants can cause bone marrow damage, hearing loss, heart failure, muscle weakness and moderate to severe headaches. Toxic gases found in inhalants can do permanent damage to structures found in the lungs that could eventually block the lungs ability to absorb oxygen. “Sudden sniffing death syndrome” (SSDS) can also occur due to lack of oxygen.
Effects on the Brain
Inhalants work by depressing the central nervous system. Inhalants can inhibit and cloud ones judgment and have the same mind altering effects as alcohol. Some of these effects can include dizziness, delusions, disorientation, depression, lightheadedness, irritability and slurred speech to name a few. Additionally, inhalants can also induce seizures and convulsions.
Long Term Effects
Long term effects on the brain may include shrinkage of the brain, brain damage and permanent personality changes. Memory loss, motor problems and even blindness are among some of the long-term effects of inhalant abuse. Damage to the peripheral nervous system can also occur with symptoms such as tingling sensations, numbness and possible total paralysis. This is the result of the inhalants destroying the myelin that protects and surrounds nerve fibers.
Among the most common withdrawal symptoms from inhalant abuse are psychological. Some of these symptoms include hallucinations and delusions. Physical withdrawal symptoms from using inhalants typically only last up to 48 hours. Some of the physical withdrawal symptoms can include insomnia, rapid heart rate or pulse, sweating, tremors and nausea or vomiting to name a few. Certain withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that medical attention may be necessary.
If you or a loved one are suffering from inhalant abuse, there is hope and it is not too late to get help. Overcoming this addiction is possible. There is no reason to be ashamed when reaching out to someone for help. Support groups, individual therapy and counseling are among the many available options of getting help. Don’t wait until it’s too late.