Health Risks of Inhalants

glue sniffing

Inhalants are the most commonly abused drugs of young teens. Tragically, it is also one of the most damaging and dangerous substances a young person could choose to abuse.

Should inhalants be classified as drugs? After all, they are not meant for human consumption. Definitions for the word drug vary but includes substances that are used as medicines or substances that are harmful, are used illegally and for pleasure. Therefore, inhalants fit the definition of a drug.

Inhalants are difficult substances to regulate because nearly all of them are common household or industrial substances. The sale or use of these substances for the purpose of intoxication is restricted or banned in 37 U.S. states, which makes the substances broadly illegal. Some of these laws only apply to selling or providing these substances to minors.

They are abused for the purpose of the pleasurable sensation the users feel these substances provide. And they are very, very harmful as will be explained below.

There are literally hundreds of different chemicals that are abused. Some may be picked up at office supply or department stores; hardware stores, sporting goods stores; even cooking supply stores. The average home has dozens of products that any curious child can pick up and abuse, with terrible risks to his body, mind and future.

Common household substances that can be abused as inhalants

spray aerosol cans used as inhalants

It is just about impossible to lock away every item on this list and the others that could be abused. Their use around the home, shop or office has become part of everyday life. Helping a young person understand the serious threat to health and even his (or her) very life may prevent abuse of inhalants.

Who Abuses Inhalants?

Every day, 44,000 young people reach for an inhalant to abuse. Annually, this comes to more than a million youth. For about one in six, it's the first drug they ever use. Glue, the solvent toluene or shoe polish are the most common first choices, followed by gasoline, lighter fluid or spray paint.

A disproportionally large number of youth enter treatment programs for inhalant addiction. Over the last decade, 35% to 40% of admissions are between 12 and 17, a higher proportion than for any other drugs, including marijuana.

In the last few years, however, a growing number of adults have been entering treatment. In 2010, 72% of admissions were 18 or older. In fact, 59% were over 21.

But perhaps the most shocking statistic is this one: The most common age for initiation of inhalant is 12 years of age. Inhalant abuse usually peaks at 14 to 15. Some children as young as 5 or 6 years of age have been found inhaling these chemicals.

The high from inhalants occurs quickly, but some people prolong the high for hours by repeatedly abusing more inhalants.

Continue reading to learn about the life-threatening risks to brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and other organs.


Sign up free to receive our email newsletter: