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Substance Abuse - Inhalents

Commonly Known As: Glue, kick, bang, sniff, huff, poppers, whippets, Texas shoe-shine, laughing gas.

Access to Drug: Very easy as the majority of products containing the inhalant materials are sold commercially. Poppers and Whippets are commonly sold at parties, concerts and dance clubs. Inhalants rank number 4 in popularity for use, especially among adolescents.

Scientific Name: Volatile Solvents, Gases, Nitrates, Anesthetics. Volatile solvents (gasoline, butane, propane, acetone, ether, and chloroform) include nail polish remover, lighter fluid, paint thinner, airplane glue, correction fluid, felt tip markers and rubber cement. The gases (freon, helium, xenon, nitrous oxide, halothane, and ethylene) are in the aerosol products such as computer dusters, hair spray, deodorant spray, cooking sprays, fabric protector, spray shoe polish and carburetor cleaners. Nitrates include amyl nitrate and the Anesthetics are commonly known as “laughing gas”. There are over 1500 inhalant products.

Interesting Facts: Inhaling fumes dates back as far as 800 B.C. when prophets would breath in fumes from fissures in rocks and go into trances or frenzies. Ether was developed in 1275 and by the late 1700’s “laughing gas” (nitrous oxide), ether and chloroform were being used both recreationally and as anesthesia. By the 1800’s “laughing gas” was documented as a social lubricant and used at parties known as “Ether Frolics”. Gasoline sniffing was first documented in the late 1940’s in the United States and became an International phenomenon in the 1950’s. Glue sniffing and metallic paint sniffing increased dramatically after WWII, and peaked through the 1950’s. The first known law against glue sniffing passed in Anaheim, California in 1962. Also, in the 1960’s, aerosol huffing became widespread. Amyl Nitrate poppers soon came into the illicit drug market in the 70’s and 80’s as a sexual aid and continues to be popular, despite the dangers of use, particularly in combination with other drugs, such as Viagra. Inhalants are reported to be responsible for about 1200 deaths in the United States each year.

Methods of Use: Inhaled through the nose and/or mouth or sprayed directly in the nose or mouth. Some users will spray aerosol products into a bag and then breathe the fumes, or soak rags with the material and place in a bag and then breathe from the bag. Others will spray inhalants onto cuffs, sleeves or collars and then sniff over a period of time. “Crackers” will puncture a can or bottle, place a balloon over the hole and then breathe the fumes from the balloon.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: Slurred speech, drunk, dizzy or a dazed look, mild hallucinations in some cases. The eyes become red and a runny nose is common with an unusual breath odor. The user may experience a dream-like stupor followed by a short period of sleep. Others may become aggressive and hostile. Sometimes referred to as a “quick drunk”.

Duration of Intoxication: Intoxication occurs within seven to ten seconds and lasts no more than 30 minutes to an hour. Regular users of inhalants can become intoxicated very quickly with chronic abusers usually displaying bizarre and erratic behavior.

Withdrawal: Headaches, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite for several hours following the experience.

Effects of Long Term Use: Permanent central and peripheral nerve cell and brain damage, cardiovascular damage, liver, kidney and bone marrow injury, loss of balance and dexterity. In some cases, depending on the inhalants abused, there have been reports of lead poisoning.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Inhalant abuse is a worldwide problem, particularly because of the availability of products. Dependence and addiction can develop with the availability and the short but intoxicating effect of the chemicals; however, continued use can cause cognitive impairment and be difficult to treat.

Associated Risks: Inhalant use can kill the first time or at any time and causes the most damage to body organs than any other psychoactive drug. Inhalant abuse tends to show up as a “fad” in a particular school or region and then die out with exposure. Users have been known to break out in violent, aggressive behavior and cause injury/death to themselves or others.