Inhalant Abuse - an overview (2022)

In the setting of inhalant abuse, exposures can produce severe, irreversible, toxic leukoencephalopathy, clinically characterized as a white matter dementia.

From: Clinical Neurotoxicology, 2009

Consumer Products

Nancy Linde, in Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Second Edition), 2005


Inhalant abuse is a drug abuse problem. Inhalants can be any substances that have volatile hydrocarbons as their base. Examples of hydrocarbons are acetone, benzene, toluene, turpentine, and gasoline. Volatile hydrocarbons can be classified into several groups. They range from high volatility, minimal viscosity substances such as methane, butane, benzene and petroleum ether to minimal volatility, high viscosity products such as lubricating oil, mineral oils and asphalt. The inhalation of these substances, especially those with high and intermediate volatility, can rapidly displace alveolar gas, causing difficulty in breathing. In addition, they can easily cross the capillary membrane of the lungs and affect the CNS. Most hydrocarbons are CNS depressants and the early effects of inhalation resemble alcohol intoxication. Continued inhalation however may lead to increased symptoms of intoxication, confusion, hallucination, and aggressive behavior.

As most of the harmful effects of inhalant abuse are not felt immediately, chronic abuse of inhalants is associated with a variety of medical problems with a real risk of death. There are a number of solvents that have become the target for abuse. A great number of them are known to be toxic (see Table 1).

Table 1. Common targets for consumer product inhalation abuse

ProductsMajor volatile compounds
Adhesive/gluesAcetone, ethyl acetate, butanone, toluene, cyclohexane, trichloroethylene, n-hexane, xylene
Aerosol propellantsLiquid petroleum gas, dimethyl ether, fluorocarbon
Anesthetics and analgesicsNitrous oxide, cyclopropane, diethyl ether, halothane, enflurane, isoflurane
Commercial dry cleaning and degreasing agentsDichloromethane, methanol, trichloroethane, toluene
Domestic spot removers and dry cleanersDichloromethane, trichloromethane, tetrachloroethylene
Fire extinguishersBromochlorodifluoromethane
Cleaning solutionsTrichloroethylene, petroleum products, carbon tetrachloride
Fuel gasesLiquid petroleum gas, propane, butane
Nail varnish and nail varnish removerAcetone and esters
Paint and paint thinnersAcetone, butanone, esters, hexane, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylenes
Typewriter correction fluidTrichlorethane
Industrial solventsn-Hexane
Lighter fluidsNaphtha, aliphatic hydrocarbons

Source: Razak Lajis, pharmacist at the National Poison Centre, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia.

Taken in smaller doses, they can cause euphoria, delusions, and hallucinations. Higher doses may lead to convulsions and coma. Chronic abuse of certain substances such as toluene-containing products can produce severe organ damage involving the liver, kidneys, and brain. Inhalation of glues remains hazardous and can be fatal. Glues containing n-hexane and toluene (see Table 2 for a list of health hazards posed by solvents used in substances that are inhaled) have been associated with the development of muscle weakness and atrophy. Three major clinical presentations are common with people who sniff toluene-containing glues. They will experience muscle weakness, gastrointestinal complaints, and neuropsychiatric disorders. Glue sniffers may also develop signs of renal toxicity. The euphoria of mild intoxication may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Some of the signs and symptoms of acute intoxication are breathing difficulties, chest pain and discomfort, eye irritation, double vision, ringing ears, diarrhea, and muscle and joint pain. After prolonged inhalation or rapid inhalation of highly concentrated vapor, the sniffer may experience a phase of excitement followed by loss of consciousness and coma.

Table 2. The health hazards of some solvents used in substances that are inhaled

SolventHealth hazard summaries
AcetoneVapors mildly irritating to eyes and respiratory tract. A CNS depressant at high levels. Ataxia and seizures have been reported
ChloroformVapors slightly irritating to eyes and respiratory tract. A CNS depressant. Mild to moderate systemic toxicity include headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and drunkenness. More severe exposures may cause respiratory arrest and coma. A carcinogen in animals
n-HexaneVapors mildly irritating to eyes and respiratory tract. Light-headedness, giddiness, nausea, and headache. Greater exposure may cause unconsciousness and death
TolueneAcute exposure results in euphoria, excitement, dizziness, headache, nervousness, ataxia, convulsion, and coma. Deaths have been recorded from acute exposure to toluene in ‘sniffers’
TrichloroethaneA respiratory and CNS depressant. The symptoms of acute inhalation may include nausea, euphoria, ataxia, dizziness, agitation, and lethargy. Severe exposure will lead to respiratory arrest, seizures, and coma
XyleneDizziness, excitement, flushing of the face, drowsiness, incoordination, tremor, confusion, respiratory depression, and coma

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Drugs of Abuse

Molly Broderick, Teresa Dodd-Butera, in Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Second Edition), 2005


Young teenagers abuse inhalants because they are easily available in the home and readily available in over 1000 products. They are relatively inexpensive or free and anyone can purchase them regardless of age. Some are also available in most offices and schools as well as in the home. Commonly abused inhalants include gasoline, butane, propane, benzene, toluene, degreasers, cleaning fluids, nail polish removers, whipped cream propellants, glues, and paint thinner. When inhaled they cause a feeling of lightheadedness, tingling, and disorientation. Unfortunately, these solvents can be life threatening and associated with ‘sudden sniffing death’ resulting in hypoxia, ventricular arrhythmias, and/or cardiac arrest. Inhaling solvents from plastic bags can result in suffocation. Chronic abuse causes brain atrophy, neurological impairment, hepatotoxicity, and nephrotoxicity.

Inhalants cause fast acting intoxicating symptoms because they are inhaled directly into the lungs. The initial symptom is stimulation but with repeated inhalations the symptoms include disinhibition, euphoria, giddiness, dizziness, tingling, stupor, apathy, muscle weakness, and slurred speech. Inhalants can produce a rapid irregular heart rate that can cause heart failure and death within minutes. Death can also occur from suffocation. Abusers inhale fumes from rags or from plastic or paper bags or balloons, or directly from the can. Long-term abuse of inhalants can cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver.

There is no specific antidote to inhalant abuse. Treatment may require oxygen and electrocardiogram and blood tests. Detox and drug abuse treatment programs are sometimes not effective and the relapse rate is high. Inhalant abusers build up a tolerance and require increased amounts to achieve the same effects in addition to having cravings for solvents. Detoxification and withdrawal can cause tremors, agitation, irritability, and difficulty in sleeping.

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Challenges in Laboratory Detection of Unusual Substance Abuse

A. Dasgupta, in Advances in Clinical Chemistry, 2017

5.1 Prevalence of Solvent Abuse

Although solvent (inhalant) abuse is common among adolescents not only in the United States but also worldwide, this problem is often overlooked. In the United States approximately 20% of adolescents have tried inhalants at least once by the time they had reached eighth grade [61]. Analysis of data from the US Poison Control Centers from 1993 to 2008 showed 35,000 cases of toxicity due to abuse of solvents [62]. Although solvent abuse is common among adolescents, solvent abuse by pregnant woman has also been reported. Such abuse in pregnancy is associated with severe maternal and neonatal sequela [63].

Various readily available household and office products are abused including glue, adhesives, nail polish, nail polish remover, cigarette lighter fluid, butane gas, air fresheners, deodorant, hairspray, pain-relieving spray, typewriter correction fluid, paint thinners, paint removers, and a variety of other agents. These household and office products contain toxic solvent such as toluene (paint, spray paint, adhesives, paint thinner, shoe polish), acetone (nail polish remover, typewriter correction fluid, and markers), hexane (glue, rubber cement), chlorinated hydrocarbon (spot and grease removers), xylene (permanent markers), propane gas (gas to light the grill, spray paints), butane gas (lighter fluid, spray paint), and fluorocarbons (hair spray, analgesic spray, refrigerator coolant such as Freon®). However, toluene is found in many household products such as glues and thinners which are widely abused due to psychoactive property of toluene. Chemical compositions of commonly abused volatile substances and inhalants are summarized in Table 2.

Table 2. List of Commonly Abused Inhalants and Their Composition

ProductSolvent Found
Adhesive, spray paint, paint thinner, shoe polishToluene
Cleaner, disinfectXylene
Nail polish removerAcetone, toluene
Lighter fluidButane
Domestic fuelPropane, butane, isooctane
Film cleaner, correction fluid1,1,1-Trichloroethane, acetone
Adhesive glueToluene, xylene, ethyl benzene, hexane
Analgesic spray, hair spray, air freshenerFluorocarbons
Rubber cement, markerAcetone
Spot remover, degreasersChlorinated hydrocarbons
GasolineCombination of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons and other volatile organic compounds
Refrigerator fluidTrichlorofluoromethane (Freon)
Metal cleanern-Propyl bromide

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(Video) Inhalant Abuse

Neuropharmacology of Inhalants

Silvia L. Cruz, Robert L. Balster, in Biological Research on Addiction, 2013

Concluding Remarks

Abuse of inhalants is an important international substance abuse problem with significant public health consequences. Indeed, inhalant abuse is a life-threatening behavior and can lead to long-term organ system toxicity of greater severity than is typical for other drugs of abuse. In addition, there are concerns about less obvious changes in brain and behavior that may occur with less extensive use, and inhalant use is a significant risk factor for psychiatric disease and other forms of drug abuse. Particularly worrisome is the fact that inhalant abuse is far more common among youth, and in many studies of young adolescents its prevalence is about as high as the use of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. Prevention through education is a key component in the control of inhalant abuse and it is important to develop culturally sensitive educational strategies to address this problem.

There are continuing problems with the proper subclassification of inhalants, but it seems clear that the nitrites, nitrous oxide, and the solvents, fuels, and anesthetics represent three distinct groups. In the last few decades there have been important advances in the understanding of the behavioral pharmacology and molecular mechanisms of most commonly inhaled drugs. Anesthetics and solvents share important properties with ethanol and CNS depressant drugs and it is likely that their acute intoxication is related to effects on ion channel proteins.

Most inhalant abusers do not seek medical attention and are rarely engaged in community-based treatment programs. There are no known pharmacological therapies to treat inhalant use disorders and little work in general on effective treatment interventions. There are economic and cultural approaches that can be used to reduce problems of inhalant use, such as reducing point of purchase access by teens and engaging parents, teachers, and leaders in community-wide prevention efforts, but little is known about their effectiveness and relevance to diverse populations.

A major problem for reducing harm from inhalant use has been the lack of appreciation by scientists, practitioners, and policy makers that inhalant abuse represents a problem that needs concentrated attention. Compared with other drugs of abuse, even drugs whose use prevalence is far less than that of inhalants, we know relatively little about inhalant abuse. A much more concentrated effort is needed, from basic studies of neuro- and behavioral pharmacology, through clinical research on treatment, the development of evidence-based prevention interventions, and policy studies of appropriate government actions. There is also a role for industry in the formulation of products, their distribution, their promotion, and efforts to inform the public about the dangers of their products.

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Theodore E. Glynn MD, Earl J. Reisdorff MD, in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, 2008

Noncardiac Syncope

Noncardiac causes of syncope include hypoglycemia, breath-holding spells, neurally-mediated disorders, basilar migraine, toxins (carbon monoxide and inhalant abuse), and psychogenic illness. Hypoglycemic patients have a history of diminished oral intake or use of medications (e.g., insulin) that cause their glucose to drop. Importantly, patients usually remain confused until glucose levels return to normal (see Chapter 106, Hypoglycemia).

Breath-holding spells are a common cause of syncope in infants, although an exact physiologic cause and description can only be inferred from limited case series.54,55 Severe breath-holding spells are associated with a loss of consciousness, whereas simple spells are not. Severe breath-holding spells have been reported in 1.7% to 4.6% of healthy children.55,56 The typical age of onset is 6 to 24 months, with up to 15% of affected children having an onset within the first 6 months of life.54,56 Most infants and children have frequent spells (more than once per week), and most have resolution of symptoms by the age of 4 years.56 While the etiology is unknown, many experts believe this disorder is due to autonomic dysregulation, which leads to cerebral anoxia through a variety of mechanisms.55,57 Many patients have iron deficiency anemia, and up to 88% of patients having improved symptoms following iron therapy regardless of whether or not they are anemic.58 Inheritance of breath-holding spells is autosomal dominant, with up to 27% of parents and 21% of siblings having a history of breath-holding spells.59

There is a distinctive sequence of events in breath-holding spells. Initially, there is provocation resulting in crying or emotional upset that leads to a noiseless state of expiration accompanied by color change and ultimately loss of consciousness and postural tone.56 Occasionally, brief jerking or urinary incontinence occurs. The event usually terminates with an inspiratory gasp or spontaneous resumption of quiet breathing.54 Recovery of normal tone and mental status may take a few minutes, making the differentiation of this disorder from seizures difficult.54 The color change is used to differentiate between the more common cyanotic spells (52% to 62% of cases), less common pallid spells (19% to 28%), and spells with mixed or unclassifiable features (19% to 20%).54,56 Cyanotic spells are believed to be due to hypersympathetic effects, with more prolonged crying, intrapulmonary shunting, hypoxia, and cerebral anoxia leading to loss of consciousness.55 Pallid breath-holders have hyperparasympathetic effects with associated asystole or bradycardia causing cerebral hypoperfusion and anoxia.55 Iron is the only therapy that has been shown to decrease the frequency of breath-holding spells.58 Rarely, anoxic episodes and seizures are so frequent that pacemaker implantation is required in children with breath-holding spells.60

Tussive syncope or post-tussive syncope is provoked by severe coughing paroxysms. These episodes can be associated with respiratory illnesses, including bronchospasm from an acute infection, asthma, pertussis, or cystic fibrosis. Presumably, severe paroxysms of coughing result in reduced cardiac output owing to the high intrathoracic pressures.

An atypical migraine headache can cause syncope. These patients usually have other symptoms atypical for syncope, including visual changes, ataxia, and vertigo. Other neurologic causes of syncope include central nervous system trauma, tumors, and cerebrovascular accidents involving arteriovenous malformations (see Chapter 41, Headaches).

Many drugs can cause syncope, including both prescription and nonprescription medications, even when used as recommended. Certain drugs can cause QT prolongation (e.g., droperidol) with resultant torsades de pointes (see Prolongation of the QTc is exacerbated with the concurrent use of macrolides (e.g., erythromycin) and ketoconazole. Substances of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, and opiates can all cause an acute loss of consciousness (usually as a consequence of intoxication or inebriation). Inhalant abuse (especially freons) can result in ventricular tachycardia and death. There is an increased frequency of sudden death in preadolescent boys taking tricyclic antidepressants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.61

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(Video) Getter - Inhalant Abuse


TOXICOLOGY | Inhalants

R.J. Flanagan, in Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences, 2000


If anesthesia is excluded, acute poisoning with volatile substances usually follows the deliberate inhalation of vapour in order to become intoxicated (‘glue sniffing’, inhalant abuse, solvent abuse, volatile substance abuse (VSA)). Solvents from adhesives, notably toluene, some correcting fluids and thinners (until recently, often 1,1,1-trichloroethane), hydrocarbons such as those found in cigarette lighter refills (usually liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)), aerosol propellants, halocarbon fire extinguishers and anesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide are among the compounds/products that may be abused in this way (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1. Some volatile substances which may be abused by inhalation

HydrocarbonsPentafluoroethane (FC 125)
AliphaticPerfluoropropane (octafluoropropane, FC 218)
AcetyleneTetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene)
Butanea1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (FC 134a)
Isobutane (2-methylpropane)a1,1,1-Trichloroethane (methylchloroform, Genklene)
Hexaneb1,1,1-Trifluoroethane (FC 143a)
Propanea1,1,2-Trichlorotrifluoroethane (FC 113)
Alicyclic/aromaticTrichloroethylene (‘trike’, Trilene)
Cyclopropane (trimethylene)Trichlorofluoromethane (FC 11, Freon 11)
Toluene (toluol, methylbenzene, phenylmethane)Oxygenated compounds and others
Xylene (xylol, dimethylbenzene)cButanone (2-butanone, methyl ethyl ketone, MEK)
MixedButyl nitritef
Petrol (gasoline)dEnflurane [(R,S)-2-chloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethyl difluoromethyl ether]
Petroleum etherseEthyl acetate
HalogenatedDesflurane [(R,S)-difluoromethyl 1,2,2,2-tetrafluoroethyl ether]
Bromochlorodifluoromethane (BCF, FC 12B1)Diethyl ether (ethoxyethane)
Carbon tetrachloride (tetrachloromethane)Dimethyl ether (DME, methoxymethane)
Chlorodifluoromethane (FC 22, Freon 22)Isobutyl nitrite (‘butyl nitrite’)f
Chloroform (trichloromethane)Isoflurane [(R,S)-1-chloro-2,2,2-trifluoroethyl difluoromethyl ether]
Dichlorodifluoromethane (FC 12, Freon 12)Isopentyl nitrite (3-methylbutan-1-ol, isoamyl nitrite, ‘amyl nitrite’)f, g
1,1-Dichloro-1-fluoroethane (FC 141b, Genetron 141b)Methoxyflurane (2,2-dichloro-1,1-difluoroethyl methyl ether)
Dichloromethane (methylene chloride)Methyl acetate
1,2-Dichloropropane (propylene dichloride) 1,1-Difluoroethane (FC 152a)Methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK, isopropyl acetone, 4-methyl-2-pentanone)
Difluoromethane (FC 32)Methyl tert.-butyl ether (MTBE)
Ethyl chloride (monochloroethane)Nitrous oxide (dinitrogen monoxide, ‘laughing gas’)
Halothane [(R,S)-2-bromo-2-chloro-1,1,1- trifluoroethane]Sevoflurane [fluoromethyl 2,2,2-trifluoro-1-(trifluoromethyl)ethyl ether] Xenon

Table 2. Some products which may be abused by inhalation

ProductMajor volatile components
Balsa wood cementEthyl acetate
Contact adhesivesButanone, hexane, toluene and esters
Cycle tyre repair cementToluene and xylenes
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) cementAcetone, butanone, cyclohexanone, trichloroethylene
Woodworking adhesivesXylenes
Air freshenerLPG, DME and/or fluorocarbonsa
Deodorants, antiperspirantsLPG, DME and/or fluorocarbonsa
Fly sprayLPG, DME and/or fluorocarbonsa
Hair lacquerLPG, DME and/or fluorocarbonsa
PaintLPG, DME and/or fluorocarbonsa and esters
InhalationalNitrous oxide, cyclopropane, diethyl ether, halothane, enflurane, desflurane, isoflurane, methoxyflurane, sevoflurane, xenon
TopicalEthyl chloride, fluorocarbonsa
Dust removers (‘air brushes’)DME, fluorocarbonsa
Commercial dry cleaning and degreasing agentsDchloromethane, FC 113, FC 141b, methanol, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, trichloroethylene (now very rarely carbon tetrachloride, 1,2-dichloropropane)
Domestic spot removers and dry cleanersDichloromethane, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene
Fire extinguishersBCF, FC 11, FC 12
Fuel gases
Cigarette lighter refillsLPG
‘Propane’Propane and butanes
Paints/paint thinnersAcetone, butanone, esters, hexane, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylenes
Paint stripperDichloromethane, methanol, toluene
Racing fuel super-charge tanksNitrous oxide
‘Room odorizer’Isobutyl nitrite
Surgical plaster/chewing gum remover1,1,1-Trichloroethane, trichloroethylene
Typewriter correction fluids/thinners (some)1,1,1-Trichloroethane
Whipped cream dispensersNitrous oxide

See Table 1 for full chemical names of some compounds.

LPG arises from the cracking of oil to make petrol (gasoline) and also in the gases trapped above oil fields. There are at least two grades of LPG available to volatile substance abusers: (1) unpurified gas intended for direct use as a fuel; and (2) purified gas intended primarily for cigarette lighter refills and as a propellant in aerosols and related products. The composition of LPG can vary depending on the source, although its major components are usually butane, isobutane and propane. Some unpurified LPGs can contain up to 40% (v/v) unsaturates (butenes and propene).

Since the mid-1970s, concern as to the consequences of the release of volatile organochlorine and organobromine compounds such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants and aerosol propellants into the atmosphere has led to the phased withdrawal of many such compounds in some countries. Deodorized LPG and dimethyl ether (DME), which is often used as a nonflammable azeotrope with a (chloro)fluorocarbon, have already largely replaced fully halogenated CFCs as aerosol propellants in some parts of the world. In the case of refrigerants, the move is to polyfluorinated compounds such as difluoromethane, pentafluoroethane, 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane, and 1,1,1-trifluoroethane (alone or as mixtures with other fluorocarbons) and, to a much lesser extent, perfluoropropane. Aliphatic hydrocarbons are also used to some extent as refrigerants. In addition, 1,1-dichloro-1-fluoroethane has been introduced as a degreasing and foam-blowing agent, and 1,1-difluoroethane and 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane are sometimes used as aerosol propellants, either alone or as mixtures with other compounds.

It has often been stated that nail varnish or varnish remover (acetone and esters) may be abused by inhalation. However, properly documented examples of this practice have not come to light and it is probable that these compounds, although strong smelling, are too water-soluble to be intoxicants. For the same reason, acetone has never been used as an inhalational anesthetic. Diesel fuel, aviation fuel (kerosene, Avgas), white spirit, turpentine (or substitute) and paraffin are not sufficiently volatile to be abused by inhalation. Petrol (gasoline), on the other hand, is often abused, especially in less developed communities. Isobutyl and isopentyl (‘amyl’) nitrites are also inhaled in order to experience their vasodilator properties, sometimes by male homosexuals. In addition, those who ingest, or even more rarely inject, solvents or solvent-containing products, either accidentally or deliberately, and the victims of clinical, industrial and domestic accidents may be poisoned by the compounds under consideration. Finally, chloroform, diethyl ether and other volatiles are still used occasionally in the course of crimes such as rape and murder, while a further volatile compound, chlorobutanol (1,1,1-trichloro-2-methyl-2-propanol), sometimes employed as a sedative and a preservative, has been used in doping racing greyhounds.

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Principles of Toxin Assessment and Screening

Alan D. Woolf, in Pediatric Critical Care (Third Edition), 2006

(Video) Inhalant Abuse: One Huff Can Kill (Accessible Preview)

Skin Examination

Many poisonings cause skin manifestations. Abusers of intravenous narcotics or other drugs may have needle tracks, characteristic tattoos, or scarring from “skin popping.” Those suffering from inhalant abuse frequently have rashes around the nose and mouth as a result of defatting and irritative effects of inhaled solvents. Methemoglobinemia as a result of a variety of oxidizing agents causes acute cyanosis despite relatively normal blood gas values (Box 98-3). A variety of rashes can be seen with adverse drug reactions and allergic responses to drugs, plants, or chemicals. Typical chemical burns may result from dermal exposure to caustics. Alopecia is associated with exposures to antimetabolite medications and other antineoplastic agents and to overdoses of chemicals such as arsenic, thallium, and selenium. Jaundice may result from exposure to carbon tetrachloride, aniline dyes, quinacrine, or phenothiazines.

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Greene Shepherd, in Encyclopedia of Toxicology (Second Edition), 2005


Historically, injuries and fatalities have been reported from acute methanol overexposure via ingestion, inhalation, as well as prolonged or repeated skin contact. Inhalation toxicity can occur in occupational settings or as a result of inhalant abuse (huffing). Clinical studies of individuals acutely poisoned by methanol ingestion have identified visual disturbances and possibly blindness as the most notable toxic effects in humans. Methanol is also a CNS depressant, although less potent than ethanol, and has also been shown to produce liver damage upon overexposure.

At high doses, methanol can cause reversible or permanent blindness, and in severe cases, death. Visual problems include eye pain, blurred vision, constriction of visual field, and possibly permanent blindness, which can develop in as little as 48h. The lethal dose of methanol in untreated individuals is estimated to be in the range of 0.8–1.5mgkg−1, which translates into ∼56–100g, or 70–130ml of 100% methanol, for the average individual (70kg). Typically, the effects noted in methanol poisoning can be divided into three stages: (1) narcosis or CNS depression similar to that observed in ethanol intoxication; (2) a latent period, generally 10–15h but can be prolonged if ethanol is coingested; and (3) visual disturbances, metabolic acidosis and possibly multiorgan failure leading to death.

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Toxicology of Solvents (Including Alcohol)

C. van Thriel, in Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences, 2014

Developmental Neurotoxicity

During pregnancy, lactation, and early childhood the developing brain/nervous system is more susceptible to toxic substances (Grandjean and Landrigan, 2006) and this article very briefly addresses the aspect of developmental neurotoxicity. Due to alcohol abuse and inhalant abuse of solvents (mainly toluene) there is sufficient clinical evidence to classify these solvents as developmental neurotoxicants (Costa etal., 2002). Maternal intake of ethanol and ‘solvent-sniffing’ during pregnancy are known to cause the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and the fetal solvent syndrome (FSS). Both syndromes share clinical features like pre- and postnatal growth deficiency, craniofacial anomalies, mental retardation, and hyperactivity. As described in the previous sections of this article the underlying modes of action might be comparable but details about the exact mechanisms (e.g., altered gene transcription, migration errors, neuronal proliferation, oxidative stress, hypoxia) underlying these syndromes are not conclusive (Goodlett etal., 2005). Costa etal. (2002) suggested that effects on glial cells, especially on astrocytes might contribute to FAS and FSS. A recent longitudinal MRI study using DTI as a measure of structural connectivity among various brain regions (Treit etal., 2013) revealed delayed white matter development and compensatory plasticity leading to atypical frontal association tracts in FAS children. Thus, initial impairment of embryonic and early postnatal brain development as well as altered trajectories of frontal lobe connections during neurodevelopment at the critical 5–15-year-old period might be responsible for the neurocognitive deficits that are longer lasting than for instance the craniofacial anomalies.

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(Video) Mind Matters: The Body’s Response to Inhalants



Inhalant Abuse - an overview? ›

Abusers inhale fumes from rags or from plastic or paper bags or balloons, or directly from the can. Long-term abuse of inhalants can cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver. There is no specific antidote to inhalant abuse. Treatment may require oxygen and electrocardiogram and blood tests.

What is the meaning of inhalant abuse? ›

Definition. Inhalant abuse involves breathing in a substance directly from its container (sniffing or snorting), placing a rag soaked in the substance over the nose and mouth and inhaling (“huffing”), or pouring the substance into a plastic bag and breathing the fumes (“bagging”).

What is a commonly abused inhalant? ›

Nitrous oxide is the most abused of these gases and can be found in whipped cream dispensers and products that boost octane levels in racing cars. Other household or commercial products containing gases include butane lighters, propane tanks, and refrigerants. Nitrites often are considered a special class of inhalants.

What are 4 warning signs of inhalant abuse? ›

Some common signs of Inhalant abuse include:
  • Red eyes.
  • Runny nose.
  • Unusual smelling breath.
  • Paint or stains on clothing or face.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Drunken appearance.
  • Anxiety.
  • Sores around mouth.

What are 5 signs of inhalant use? ›

Inhalants Research Report How can inhalant abuse be recognized?
  • Chemical odors on breath or clothing.
  • Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes.
  • Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers, and chemical-soaked rags or clothing.
  • Drunk or disoriented appearance.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Nausea or loss of appetite.
Feb 1, 2011

How can we prevent inhalant abuse? ›

What can you do to prevent inhalant abuse? One of the most important steps you can take is to talk with your children or other youngsters about not experimenting even a first time with inhalants. In addition, talk with your children's teachers, guidance counselors, and coaches.

How can you prevent inhalant abuse What precautions can you take? ›

The best way to help prevent inhalant abuse is to talk to your child about it early on. Do not assume that your child knows what it is or that it's wrong. Talk to your child about the dangers and risks of trying inhalants and drugs. It can help them make the right decision.

Who is at risk for inhalant abuse? ›

Who abuses inhalants? The peak age of inhalant abuse is age 14 to 15. However, abuse is seen in children as young as 5 to 6 years of age. In many cases, abuse declines by 17 to 19 years of age.

What is huffing mean? ›

Inhalant abuse, or “huffing” as it is more commonly referred to, has become common practice among teenagers. It involves inhaling (or “huffing”) fumes from your everyday run-of-the-mill household products, such as glue, cleaning products or paint.

What happens if you inhale correction fluid? ›

By concentrating the liquid in a closed system, the person can inhale a large dose of the hydrocarbon vapors and experience a form of euphoria. The intentional inhalation of typewriter correction fluid has been reported to cause nausea and vomiting, dizziness, coma, cerebral edema, and sudden...

What's the definition of gateway drug? ›

Definition of gateway drug

: a drug (such as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (such as cocaine or heroin)

What are volatile drugs? ›

More drug profiles

Volatile substance use may be defined as the deliberate inhalation of volatile compounds to produce psychoactive effects. These compounds have few characteristics in common, other than their intoxication effects and the behavioural effects they produce.


1. Lecture 15 Inhalants
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3. What is Inhalant Abuse? - Dr. Satish Babu K
(Doctors' Circle World's Largest Health Platform)
4. Drug Abuse, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.
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Address: 917 Hyun Views, Rogahnmouth, KY 91013-8827

Phone: +5938540192553

Job: Administration Developer

Hobby: Embroidery, Horseback riding, Juggling, Urban exploration, Skiing, Cycling, Handball

Introduction: My name is Fr. Dewey Fisher, I am a powerful, open, faithful, combative, spotless, faithful, fair person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.