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Inhalants: A Dangerous Experiment

You may have heard your friends talking in a new way about gasoline, felt tipped pens, deodorants and nail polish remover as drugs. The word is out: Inhaling, sniffing or, as it’s called on the street, “huffing” chemical substances is an easy, cheap and legal way to get a quick high.

But before you rush off to experiment, there are things you need to know. Inhalants can be extremely dangerous. The chemicals they contain can block the nasal passages and coat the lungs, and the solvents have many long-term effects.

These include:

  • Frequent nosebleeds;
  • Sores in the nose, mouth and throat;
  • Pallor and weight loss;
  • Depression, irritability, paranoia and hostility;
  • Liver and kidney damage;
  • Bone marrow abnormalities; and
  • Mental confusion and fatigue, which may lead to tremors and brain damage.

While under the influence, users also experience drooling, sneezing, nausea, coughing, hypersensitivity and loss of coordination. Repeated inhaling can result in seizures, unconsciousness and death from heart failure, suffocation or accidents. Deep sniffing can kill even first-time users.

Inhalants give a quick high that may include lightheadedness, exhilaration and sometimes hallucinations. Some users feel empowered by them, which leads them to dangerous behavior. The first inhalation often wears off in just a few minutes, causing users to sniff repeatedly to maintain a high. This makes the negative side effects more likely.

Regular use raises tolerance, which means that greater amounts are needed to achieve the same effects. You are unlikely to become physically addicted to inhalants, experiencing full-blown withdrawal symptoms when you stop inhaling, but you may become psychologically dependent. This means you experience strong cravings and have difficulty quitting.

The high isn’t worth the risk — inhalants may be cheap and legal, but they are as dangerous as other drugs.

Inhalants: A Dangerous Experiment

Steve Bressert, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Bressert, S. (2016). Inhalants: A Dangerous Experiment. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Jul 2016
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