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Is Inhalant Use a Disorder?


Is Inhalant Use A Disorder?

Inhalants include a range of chemicals that can be inhaled without burning or heating the chemical.  Inhalant abuse can involve the sniffing of fumes from glue, amyl nitrite, or nitrous oxide.  The types of inhalants used include spray paint, glue, nitrous oxide, solvents, aerosols, medical gases, and poppers.  Here are a few of the types of inhalants used and the corresponding effects.


  • Spray paint and glue.  Most used by teenagers as they are easy to obtain.  Once inhaled, there is a high followed by a mild crash.  Solvents have a short high, which is why many users will inhale, take a break, and then inhale again, which can extend the high.
  • Nitrous oxide or laughing gas can be found in whipping cream and Pam cooking spray.  These are usually put in a bag and inhaled and the individual will feel anesthetized.
  • Solvents, aerosols, and medical gases enter the central nervous system where they slow down the connections in the brain forcing the body to relax.
  • Poppers are little vials of amyl nitrate and they can cause an intense high while relaxing the body’s muscles and blood vessels.  Poppers are popular at teenage parties.


Inhalant use disorder is a psychiatric condition recognized by the psychiatric community as a substance abuse disorder.  Inhalant use is characterized by a pattern of inhaling hydrocarbon-based fumes to achieve an altered state of mind, which leads to significant impairment and a pattern of abuse.


The severity of the abuse is determined by the individual’s use and associated cravings or strong desire to use the inhalant.  In addition, abuse is further determined by using larger amounts and for longer periods of time than originally intended.  Any effort to stop the use of inhalants are unsuccessful.  As with other substance use disorders, many individuals will spend a great deal of time engaging in activities to acquire the chemicals for use.  Addicts will continue to use the inhalant despite negative consequences of continued use.


The effects of inhalant intoxication include dizziness, slurred speech, blurred vision, tremors, tiredness, and impaired motor coordination. The physical complications of inhalant use disorder include nasal dermal abrasions, rashes, neural damage, and a breakdown of muscle tissue components in the bloodstream.


Adolescents are using inhalants probably due to the availability.  Approximately 10% of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have used an inhalant at least once.  Inhalant use disorder is often seen with other co-morbid substance abuse disorders and depression.


Treatment for inhalant use disorder includes psychotherapy can be effective.  Since many individuals are diagnosed with other mental health disorders in addition to the inhalant use, individual therapy could help.  Inpatient and outpatient treatment can also be a consideration.


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