Types of Inhalants

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  • 0:02 What are Inhalants?
  • 1:23 Types of Inhalants
  • 2:44 How are Inhalants Used?
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Lisa Roundy

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

The abuse of inhalants, such as volatile solvents, aerosols, gases and nitrites, is a dangerous practice. This lesson discusses the different types of inhalants and how they are abused.

What Are Inhalants?

Have you ever seen the movie where a giant ape is discovered on a remote island and brought to New York City? Do you remember how the giant ape is subdued so that he can be captured and brought aboard the ship for transport? Bottles of chloroform are broken around him, and he is rendered unconscious as he inhales the rising vapors. This is an oversized example of the use of inhalants. If the simple act of inhaling fumes is enough to take down a giant ape, imagine the effect it could have on a much smaller human being!

Inhalants are vapors from toxic substances that are inhaled for their intoxicating effects. Inhalants are often common household products that are easy to obtain. They are also one of the most dangerous types of drug abuse. Use of an inhalant slows the body's functions and produces rapid results. One use can also cause aggression and irreversible physical or mental damage, or even death.

This provides the possibility of a new perspective as to why the giant ape may have gone crazy at the end of the movie. This lesson will discuss the four main types of inhalants: volatile solvents, aerosols, gases and nitrites.

Types of Inhalants

Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. These substances are found in numerous household and industrial products. A few examples are paint thinner, gasoline, glue and felt-tip markers.

Aerosols are sprays that contain propellants and solvents. Aerosol sprays are probably the most common type of inhalant found in the home. Examples include spray paint, deodorant, cooking oil sprays, and hairspray.

Gas inhalants are substances in a gaseous state at room temperature. Gas inhalants are a bit less common, but still easy to obtain. Medical gasses, such as chloroform or nitrous oxide, can be abused as gas inhalants. Household items, such as a butane lighter or whipped cream dispenser, also contain gas inhalants.

Nitrites are chemical compounds that act directly on the central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. This action differs from that of other inhalants. Nitrites are mainly abused as a sexual enhancer and can be found in room deodorizers or capsules that release vapors when opened. Common street names for nitrites are 'poppers' or 'snappers.'

How Are Inhalants Used?

There are three main ways inhalants are abused: sniffing, huffing and bagging.

Volatile solvents are easily abused by sniffing. Sniffing occurs when a person inhales the vapors directly from an open container. An example is a person holding their head over a can of gasoline and breathing deeply until they become high.

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