What are inhalants ?

Inhalants are volatile (vaporize at room temperature) substances that produce chemical vapors. These vapors can be intentionally inhaled (huffing) to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering effect similar to alcohol use. Inhalants are found in common everyday household products that we use:

Air freshener, Butane, Cooking spray, Correction fluid/ thinners, Deodorant, Fabric protector, Felt pens, Freon, Gasoline, Household glue, Hairspray, Helium, Incense, Lighter fluid, Model airplane glue, Nail polish/ nail polish remover, Paint, Paint thinner, Propane, Rubber cement. Spot remover, Spray paint ...

Why do people take inhalants?

  • Quick buzz, euphoric effect
  • Easily available and inexpensive. Inhalants are legal products, therefore they can be purchased by anyone and there is no need to get access through a dealer.
  • Inhalants are easy to use and easy to conceal. Their use is difficult to detect.
  • There are no educational deterrents offered in school, few parents are sensitized to the problem and the consequences of use are not common knowledge.

Inhalants fall into the following categories

  • Solvents
    • Industrial or household solvents or solvent-containing products, including paint thinners or solvents, degreasers (dry-cleaning fluids), gasoline, and glue.
    • Art or office supply solvents, including correction fluids, felt-tip-marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners. (carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethane, trichloroethylene ; acetates, acetone, benzene, butylacetate, chloroform, ether, hexane, methanol, naphtha, methyl chloride, methyl ethyl ketone, methylene chloride, toluene )
  • Gases
    • Gases used in household or commercial products, including butane lighters and propane tanks; whipping cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets); and, refrigerant and fire extinguishers gases.
    • (Fuels: butane, gasoline, isopropane, propane, tetraethyl lead ; Gases: fluorinated hydrocarbons: freon, bromochlorodifluoromethane, other fluorocarbons)
    • Household aerosol propellants and associated solvents in items such as spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, and fabric protector sprays.
    • Medical anesthetic gases, such as ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”).
  • Nitrites
    • Aliphatic nitrites, including cyclohexyl nitrite, which is found in room odorizers
    • Amyl nitrite, is a drug that is sometimes prescribed to people that have heart problems and is available by prescription. On the street, it is commonly referred to as poppers.
    • Butyl nitrite and volatile alkyl nitrites.

Inhalants are also known as

Aimies, Bang, Glue, Huff, Kick, Poppers, Rush, Snappers, Sniff, Texas Shoe-Shine, Whippets, more…

How are inhalants taken?

Inhalants are breathed in through the nasal passages and absorbed by the lungs, sprayed directly into the mouth or mixed with other liquids and swallowed. To maintain the high the user must continue use.

What are the possible effects of inhalants use?
Similar to the effects of alcohol.

  • Inhalants can kill you the first time you use them
  • Effects are usually felt within the first 3 to 5 minute of use of an inhalant
  • Loss inhibitions, increased self-confidence, excitement, euphoria.
  • Dazed, dizzy or drunk appearance
  • Reckless, dangerous behaviour
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Runny nose, nosebleeds
  • Headache
  • Coming down from the high can cause feelings of anxiousness and/or agitation.

Chronic / long term use of inhalants may cause

  • Chemical odor to ones breath
  • Anxiety, excitable, irritable
  • Loss of appetite, nausea
  • Sores and/or spots in and around the mouth
  • Altered breathing, increased heart rate
  • Ringing in the ear, hearing loss
  • Sneezing, coughing
  • Weakening of the muscles, fatigue
  • Limb spasms
  • Uncontrollable bowel movements and urination
  • Temporary blindness
  • Unconsciousness, suffocation (from plastic bag)
  • Central nervous system or brain damage
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Sudden Sniffing Death - SSD

What are the risks associated with pregnancy and inhalants use?
Effects associated with inhalants during pregnancy are similar to alcohol and may result in

  • Birth defects
  • Early labour, premature birth
  • Breathing problems and a heightened risk of infection may occur, for the newborn.

Symptoms of inhalant overdose

  • Headache, ringing in the ears
  • Double vision, dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate, irregular heartbeat
  • Increased activity, impulsive, hazardous actions
  • Slurred speech, slowed reflexes, uncoordinated
  • Delusions, hallucinations (auditory, visual, or tactile)
  • Unconsciousness
  • Permanent brain damage.
  • Sudden Sniffing Death (SSD)

Withdrawal symptoms
Similar to alcohol

  • Alcohol: Restlessness, irritability, anxiety, agitation
  • Anorexia, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting
  • Tremor, elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure
  • Insomnia, intense dreaming, nightmares
  • Impaired concentration, memory, and judgment
  • Increased sensitivity to sounds, alteration in tactile sensations
  • Delirium (disorientation to time, place, situation)
  • Hallucinations (auditory, visual, or tactile)
  • Delusions (usually paranoid)
  • Seizures
  • Elevated temperature
  • Headache
  • Possible death

Did you know ?

Inhalants were the most frequently reported class of illicit drugs used in the past year among adolescents aged 12 or 13 (3.4 and 4.8 percent, respectively) (1)


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  “NCADI: Drugs of Abuse”.  (1997)  Inventory #RP0926. National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).  [March 01, 2003].

“What is Withdrawal Management ?” Withdrawal Management Association of Ontario.  [March 01, 2003] .

National Institute on Drug Abuse.  National Institute of Health. US Department of Health and Human Services.  “Inhalants”  (March 2003)  NIDA : InfoFacts  [April 30, 2003].

(1) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (March 13, 2008). The NSDUH Report - -  Inhalant Use across the Adolescent Years. Rockville, MD. [May 27, 2009]