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What is Inhalant Addiction?
Inhalants are not a single specific drug, but rather a group of chemical agents whose vapors produce an intoxicating effect when they’re inhaled. The chemicals used as inhalants are usually common household or industrial products that are legal and have legitimate uses beyond their abuse as intoxicants.
Substances commonly used as inhalants include:
- Spray paints
- Shoe polishes
- Cooking sprays
- Bottled propane
- Butane lighter fluid
- Whipped cream aerosols
- Nail polish remover
- Paint thinners
- Solvents such as benzene or toluene
Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse and Addiction
The intoxicant caused by most inhalants is similar to alcohol intoxication. Users typically feel euphoria or feelings of dizziness that may be interpreted as pleasant. The vapors often cause unpleasant effects, however, even in the short-term and with limited use. These effects can include:
- Loss of coordination
- Diminished reflexes
- Confusion or disorientation
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Muscle weakness or tremors
- Nausea and vomiting
Even a single episode of inhalant intoxication can be dangerous, resulting in chemical burns, brain damage, coma, or death.
The intoxicating effects are usually fleeting, driving some users to abuse the substances frequently. Long-term abuse can lead to lasting neurological damage that can cause a range of physical and cognitive problems, including:
- Memory impairment
- Mental processing-speed impairment
- Attention deficit
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of coordination
- Parkinson’s-like tremors and loss of muscle control
- Organ damage (heat, lungs, liver, kidney)
Different inhalant substances produce different health risks, both short-term and long-term. Some of these effects may be reversible over time. Others may be permanent.
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