Compared to used syringes, glass pipes, or empty liquor bottles, everyday household cleaners appear to be an innocuous sight. But unbeknownst to many, common aerosol products and solvents can be equally dangerous artifacts of drug abuse. Unlike most other drugs, these substances are in nearly every home and can be readily purchased, making them a convenient option for anyone looking for a quick high.
Unfortunately, many mistake the accessibility of inhalants for safety and don’t realize the drugs’ destructive effects. For many, understanding the real consequences of inhalant abuse is the first step in acknowledging and managing their abuse.
How Do Inhalants Work?
As the name suggests, inhalants are abused by breathing (or “huffing”) substances through the nose or mouth. There are over 1,400 common household products that can be abused by inhalation, including felt tip markers, air conditioning coolant, butane, furniture varnish, spray paint, and glue. Users might sniff the fumes directly from containers, “huff” chemicals deposited inside a paper bag, or breathe through a solvent-soaked rag in the mouth.
Once inhaled, the chemicals travel through the lungs and bloodstream where they’re quickly distributed to the brain and other organs. Within moments of inhalation, the user will experience a rush of pleasurable psychoactive effects. The effects of inhalants are similar to drunkenness, because, like alcohol, inhalants actively suppress the central nervous system. Unlike alcohol, however, the pleasurable effects of inhalants lasts mere minutes, so most users sustain the high by immediately repeating the experience.
Abusing inhalants just once can have permanent and deadly effects. Unfortunately, prolonged and periodical abuse only increases the likelihood that a user will suffer irreversible damage.
Short-Term Effects of Inhalants
Accompanying the brief and pleasurable high from inhalants are a number of potentially dangerous effects. Some of their short-term effects include:
- Abdominal pain
- Slurred speech
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasms and loss of coordination
While these effects tend to dissipate as the drug wears off, inhalant abuse is not without its own permanent and deadly risks.
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Long-Term Effects of Inhalants
As a person continues to abuse inhalants, the risks of developing lasting conditions increases. Some of the common long term effects of inhalants include:
- Hearing loss
- Limb spasms
- Bone marrow damage
- Central nervous system damage
- Brain damage
But even a first-time user faces serious dangers. Every time a person abuses inhalants, he or she risks:
It can be hard to wrap your head around the fact that chemicals sold in every store and present in every household can inflict damage similar to crack cocaine. But the truth is that these seemingly harmless products can cause lasting brain and organ damage, which in some cases could be fatal.
Getting Help for a Loved One
Fortunately, these most of these risks can be mitigated by ceasing the drug abuse. It may be challenging for users to recognize that their inhalant abuse is a serious problem, because, after all, these products are legal. A residential treatment program can help users understand the severity and complexity of their disease and address the underlying causes of their abuse.