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Inhalants are especially common among teenagers and adolescents due to their accessibility. Most of these substances can be purchased legally in stores due to the fact that they are not intended for drug use. Inhalants are the only class of drugs that are more likely to be used by younger teens than older ones.

People can use these drugs in a variety of ways. Fumes may be inhaled directly from the substance itself, sprayed into the nose or mouth, or filled into a bag that can be inhaled. Most commonly, these drugs are a matter of accessibility. Some people may use this method to get high if they are addicted to another substance that they cannot obtain, while others may be experimenting with drugs for the first time.

When these toxic fumes are breathed in, they travel into the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Quickly, the chemicals will reach organs such as the heart and the brain. While this is to account for why the effects are so quick, it can also be incredibly dangerous. The more the brain and other organs are introduced to these toxic chemicals, the more likely it becomes that a person develops long-term and permanent damage to their mental or physical well-being.

Are Inhalant Drugs Illegal?

For the most part, inhalants are not illegal. Because these substances exist for reasons unrelated to drug use, it is difficult for the government to regulate their sales effectively. Examples of legal substances that are at a high risk of abuse include:

  • Lighter fluid
  • Propane
  • Gasoline
  • Paint thinners
  • Glue
  • Hairspray
  • Spray paint
  • Compressed air dusters
  • Cooking oil aerosol spray

Although these substances cannot be wholly regulated, some states have passed efforts to prevent young children and adolescents from purchasing these products. Currently, 37 states have passed a law that addresses the abuse of inhalants, and 13 states have passed laws banning or restricting the sales of these products to minorsa.

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Drug Abuse

The effects of inhalant drugs are fast-acting and pass quickly. The fumes primarily affect the brain and slow down a person’s nervous system. Short term effects of these drugs include:
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Appearing intoxicated or “out of it”
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of control of body movement
  • Poor decision making or the inability to concentrate
  • Hallucinations
When using inhalants, a person is introducing toxic fumes not only into their brain but through their organs as well. The more a person uses these substances, the more likely they will develop severe and potentially permanent health issues. Some long term effects of abuse are:
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Memory loss
  • Nerve damage
  • Loss of hearing or vision
  • Brain damage, usually stemming from a loss of oxygen
If you believe a loved one may be abusing inhalant drugs, it is vital to look out for certain signs of use. Someone misusing these substances will often appear to be tired, depressed, or unaware of their surroundings. They may also often smell like chemicals and have paint or oil stains on their clothes or skin.

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