Signs & Symptoms of Inhalant Dependence

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  • 0:01 What Are Inhalants?
  • 1:16 Signs of Inhalant Use
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Inhalant abuse is a serious problem in the United States, especially among youth. This lesson will discuss some general warning signs and symptoms indicating someone may be abusing an inhalant.

What Are Inhalants?

The first thought that comes to your mind when you think of harmful drugs is probably that of illegal drugs being sold on a street corner. You may also think about prescription drug abuse. You probably don't immediately think about everyday items found in a cleaning cabinet or garage.

Sometimes common household items such as nail polish or spray paint aren't used for their intended purposes. Instead, some people use these items to get high.

Inhalants are vapors from toxic substances that are inhaled in order to become intoxicated. Common substances found around millions of homes produce these chemical vapors, and inhaling the fumes given off by chemicals in these substances has become a widespread practice among youth. In fact, nearly one out of five kids has tried it by the time they're in eighth grade. Unfortunately, this is a very dangerous trend because trying an inhalant just one time can lead to death.

Sudden sniffing death occurs when a person uses an inhalant, goes into cardiac arrest, and dies. Their heart begins to beat quickly and irregularly, and then suddenly stops. It can occur the first time a person uses an inhalant or the one-hundredth time. This is why it is important to recognize the signs of inhalant use and to do something about it.

Signs of Inhalant Use

Sometimes you may notice changes in the environment around a person that could indicate a person is abusing inhalants.

Let's use Johnny as an example. Johnny's girlfriend has started to notice that his clothes often smell of chemicals. She mentions this to his mom who has also noticed that he has a lot of unusual stains on his clothing lately. Johnny's mother asks his father if he has noticed anything unusual. His father tells her that he recently noticed he was missing some cans of spray paint that were in the garage. They search his room and find the empty spray paint cans and some old rags that have been soaked in paint thinner hidden under his bed. Any of these things could be a sign that Johnny has been abusing inhalants, but all of them together are a real cause for concern.

There are also physical symptoms that are present with inhalant abuse. Inhalants, like other drugs, have noticeable effects. Johnny could be having any of the following physical symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Sores around the mouth or nose
  • A runny nose
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • A chronic cough
  • Extremely bad breath
  • Hallucinations

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