Although other substances of abuse can also be inhaled, the term ‘inhalants’ is used to refer to those substances that can be misused only by the way of inhaling. Inhalants comprise various seemingly benign household and industrial chemicals sold at stores and supermarkets. Hence, these products are easily accessible at home or the workplace. However, unbeknown to many homemakers, these products contain harmful chemicals that have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties.
Inhalants include a variety of substances, such as nitrous oxide, amyl nitrite, cleaning fluids, gasoline, spray paint, gasoline, permanent markers, etc. Additionally, these substances can be found in computer keyboard cleaners, other aerosol sprays, felt-tip pens, glue, etc.
Inhalants have many nicknames, such as nangs, glue, gas, bulb, sniff, chroming, huff, glading, dusting, bagging, poppers, etc. Usually, people deliberately inhale the above-mentioned substances to achieve an altered state of mind. Due to the easy accessibility of inhalants, the problem of inhalant abuse has become a worldwide phenomenon.
The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that nearly 600,000 people aged 12 or older were the current inhalant users, representing 0.2. percent of the population in the same age group. Compared to other age groups, the problem of inhalant abuse is more prevalent among adolescents aged 12 to 17. Considered as dangerous as alcohol and marijuana, inhalants inflict serious consequences by affecting body and brain.
Harmful effects of inhalants on brain and body
The inhalants contain several types of chemicals. While some chemicals vaporize quickly and leave the body, others may get absorbed into the fatty tissues of the brain and the central nervous system (CNS) and stay for a longer duration that causes severe health problems, such as:
- Nerve fiber damage: The protective sheath around certain nerve fibers in the brain and elsewhere in the body can break down due to the long-term inhalant use. This in turn disrupts the communication between the nerve cells, which could trigger muscle spasms and tremors. Consequently, one could face permanent disability in performing the basic functions like walking, bending and even talking, resembling conditions that characterize multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Brain cell damage: Inhalants damage the brain cells by inflicting brain hypoxia wherein the cells are starved of oxygen. Depending on the brain region that are damaged due to the deprivation of oxygen, certain basic functions are affected. For example, if the hippocampus has been impacted, then it may result in difficulty in learning new things and in carrying on simple conversations. If the cerebral cortex has been damaged, then it will hinder the ability to plan or solve complex problems. When the cerebellum is affected, one witnesses loss of coordination.
- Compromise of the immune system: The chronic use of inhalants leads to muscle wasting, lung damage and a weakened immune system that makes a person vulnerable to infectious diseases.
- Organ damage: As inhalants starve the body of oxygen, they cause damages to the major organs like the heart, kidneys, brain, liver and bone marrow, among others. Inhalants force the heart to beat irregularly and rapidly. Moreover, nausea and nosebleed may occur, and users may lose their sense of hearing and smell.
- Blackout or coma and sudden sniffing death: Upon inhaling these substances, a user can become unconscious either for a relatively brief period (a blackout) or for a longer period (coma). The inhalation of the fumes of the household and industrial chemicals can even lead to sudden death or sudden sniffing death syndrome (SSDS). In fact, this risk is present even among the first-time users. Sudden sniffing death occurs due to either abnormally faster heartbeats that occur irregularly and stops after some time, or asphyxiation caused by the absence of oxygen.
Control the urge to abuse inhalants
When continually used over many days, inhalants can be physically and psychologically addictive. In fact, habitual users suffer from withdrawal symptoms on stopping the use of inhalants. These withdrawal symptoms range from nausea, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, headaches, chills, agitation, shaking, hallucinations, to convulsions in severe cases.
If you know someone addicted to such intoxicants, it is important to detox by removing the harmful chemicals from the body and preparing it for recovery. You can contact the NTR/NAD Detox of Arizona to find the state-of-the-art detoxification treatment centers in Arizona. Chat online or call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-593-8453 to get information on drug detox treatment centers in Arizona.