Skip to content

Inhalant Addiction Treatment, Statistics & Long-term Effects

Although other substances that are misused can be inhaled, the term ‘inhalants’ refers to the various substances that people typically take only by inhaling. This can lead to Inhalant Addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, inhalants are various products easily bought and found in the home or workplace—such as spray paints, markers, glues, and cleaning fluids. They contain dangerous substances that have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties when inhaled. People don’t typically think of these products as drugs because they’re not intended for getting high, but some people use them for that purpose. When these substances are used for getting high, they are called inhalants. [1]

Inhalant Addiction
Inhalant dependence is a serious health problem in adolescent subjects and is associated with high comorbidity of other substance dependence, psychiatric disorder, and externalizing spectrum disorder.

Inhalants are mostly used by young kids and teens and are the only class of substance used more by younger than by older teens. A research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that “Inhalant dependence is a serious health problem in adolescent subjects and is associated with high comorbidity of other substance dependence, psychiatric disorder, and externalizing spectrum disorder”. [2]

People who use inhalants breathe in the fumes through their nose or mouth, usually by sniffing, snorting, bagging, or huffing. It’s called different names depending on the substance and equipment they use. Although the high that inhalants produce usually lasts just a few minutes, people often try to make it last by continuing to inhale again and again over several hours. [1]

Inhalant Addiction Statistics 

According to the scientific piece ‘Inhalant Use and Inhalant Use Disorders in the United States’, published by the National Library of Medicine, about 9 percent of the US population has used, abused, or become addicted to inhalants at some point in their lives – that is about 22.5 million people in the United States. Because many of these substances are legal household items, the most at-risk group for inhalant abuse and addiction are adolescents, under the age of 18.

In one survey of people who had used inhalants for the first time in the prior 12 months, around 68 percent of these new users were under the age of 18. In another survey, 58 percent of people who abused inhalants started doing so by the end of 9 th grade. A third study found that around 20 percent of middle and high school students had abused inhalants at some point.

The mean age of first inhalant use or abuse is 13 years old in the US, with white and Hispanic children more likely to struggle with abuse and addiction problems involving inhalants than other socioeconomic groups. Inhalant abuse most often begins before tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, or other substance abuse. [3]

Another group at risk for becoming addicted to inhalants – especially nitrous oxide – are dentists and dental hygienists. Although substance abuse and addiction risks are based on a variety of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors that are still being studied, those who work in the dental field and have this combination of substance abuse risk factors are more likely to struggle with addiction to nitrous oxide, because of access to this drug. 

Nitrous oxide is used in dental applications as a sedative for oral surgery, such as during wisdom teeth removal surgery. According to a study from the ADA Dentist Health and Awareness Committee, [4] around 5 percent of dentists with substance abuse issues, abuse nitrous oxide. 

Products Used as Inhalants


  • Industrial or household products, including:
  • Paint thinners or removers
  • Dry-cleaning fluids
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Art or office supply solvents, including:
  • Correction fluids
  • Felt-tip marker fluid
  • Electronic contact cleaners
  • Glue


  • Household aerosol items, including: spray paint, hair or deodorant sprays
  • Aerosol computer cleaning products
  • Vegetable oil sprays


  • Found in household or commercial products, including: butane lighters, propane tanks
  • Whipped cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets)
  • Used as anesthesia (to make patients lose sensation during surgery/procedures), including: Ether, Chloroform, Nitrous Oxide.


  • Video head cleaner
  • Room odorizer
  • Leather cleaner
  • Liquid aroma

Inhalant Addiction Effects

Inhalants can be abused using several different methods, with the most common being “huffing.” Huffing is soaking a rag with a liquid Inhalant, holding the rag up to one’s mouth and/or nose, and then inhaling the vapors. Some people inhale the substance directly from its container through their mouth or nose.

People may also inhale the substance out of a plastic or paper bag or inhale gas from balloons. Those with Inhalant Addiction may heat these substances before inhaling them to intensify the effects.

Inhalant intoxication has been compared to alcohol intoxication due to their similar effects, such as impaired judgment or motor function. Unlike alcohol, Inhalants can cause a temporary hallucinatory state. Additionally, the effects of Inhalants only last for a few minutes. [2] The effects of Inhalants include:

  • Excitability
  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of self-control
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Limited reflexes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blacking out
  • Slurred or distorted speech

Inhalant Addiction long-term effects 

As stated by the piece ‘Inhalant Addiction And Abuse’, published by, any use of Inhalants is considered abuse in part because of the serious damage these substances can inflict on the body. Inhalants act as Central Nervous System (CNS) Depressants, and higher doses or deep breathing of these solvents can result in a fatal overdose. This is usually preceded by the user losing touch with reality and experiencing nausea, vomiting, and unconsciousness. A fatal overdose is generally the result of heart failure, asphyxiation, or the drug causing the user to stop breathing on their own. [5]

Additional long-term effects of Inhalant use include:

  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Loss of coordination and limb spasms
  • Nerve damage
  • Delayed behavioral development
  • Brain damage

Inhalant Addiction Overdose

An overdose occurs when a person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death. These symptoms can cause seizures and coma. They can even be deadly. Many solvents and aerosol sprays are highly concentrated, meaning they contain a large amount of chemicals with a lot of active ingredients. Sniffing these products can cause the heart to stop within minutes. 

This condition, known as sudden sniffing death, can happen to otherwise healthy young people the first time they use an inhalant. Using inhalants with a paper or plastic bag or in a closed area may cause death from suffocation (being unable to breathe).

Because inhalant overdose can lead to seizures or cause the heart to stop, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions. They will try to stop the seizure or restart the heart. [1]

Inhalant Addiction
Inhalant overdose symptoms can cause seizures and coma. They can even be deadly. Many solvents and aerosol sprays are highly concentrated, meaning they contain a large amount of chemicals with a lot of active ingredients.

How Inhalant Addiction Works? 

Although it’s not very common, repeated use of inhalants can lead to addiction, a form of substance use disorder (SUD). An SUD develops when continued use of the drug causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home; as the National Institute on Drug Abuse states. An SUD can range from mild to severe, the most severe form being addiction. 

Those who try to quit inhalants may have withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Mood changes

Inhalant Addiction Treatment

Inhalant Addiction is a very serious problem that can cause permanent brain damage in a short period of time. Most individuals who suffer from Inhalant Addiction need professional treatment. There are both inpatient and outpatient treatment options available for people suffering with an addiction to Inhalants.

Some people seeking treatment for use of inhalants have found behavioral therapy to be helpful:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations in which they are most likely to use drugs.
  • Motivational incentives uses vouchers or small cash rewards for positive behaviors such as staying drug-free.

Inhalant Addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from Inhalant Addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.


[1] ‘Inhalants DrugFacts’ – National Institute on Drug Abuse (

[2] ‘Inhalant Dependence: Data from a Tertiary Care Center in South India’ – U.S. National Library of Medicine (

[3] ‘Inhalant Use and Inhalant Use Disorders in the United States’ – U.S. National Library of Medicine (

[4] ADA Dentist Health and Awareness Committee (

[5] ‘Inhalant Addiction And Abuse’ – (