Inhalant Symptoms and Warning Signs

Abusing inhalants is dangerous. The short-term and long-term health effects can be devastating or even deadly.

Signs of Inhalant Abuse

Teen with headacheInhalant abuse can be hard to detect because its effects are so short-lived.

Many people don’t realize there are substances virtually everywhere that can be abused, from paint thinner to keyboard air duster.

There is also a smaller chance of being caught while intoxicated because the effects of inhalants are so brief. The ease of hiding inhalant abuse is a likely reason why these substances are commonly abused by teenagers.

Some common signs of inhalant abuse include:

  • Red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Unusual smelling breath
  • Paint or stains on clothing or face
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drunk appearance
  • Anxiety
  • Sores around mouth

Are Inhalants Addictive?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), all inhalants have a potential for dependence. While relatively uncommon, people can develop an addiction to inhalants.

Inhalants, like other addictive substances, have a strong effect on the brain reward system.

Repeated abuse of inhalants can rewire the brain for addiction. Most cases of abuse occur in the teenage demographic and is usually discontinued as users get older; in some cases, teens who abused inhalants may go on to experiment with other, more dangerous drugs.

A teen with a history of inhalant abuse may be struggling with an underlying disorder that could be effectively addressed through treatment and rehab.

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The Dangers of Inhalants

The short-lived effects of inhalants may lead people to incorrectly assume that these substances aren’t that dangerous. However, inhalants can cause heart failure and respiratory distress, leading to a fatal overdose even with the first use.

Serious physiological side effects generally require heavy, long-term abuse. For example, chronic abuse of the paint-dissolving chemical toluene may produce neurological symptoms strikingly similar to multiple sclerosis, a disease of the brain and spinal cord.

Other physiological side effects may include brain degeneration or parkinsonism, a disease related to Parkinson’s disease.

These side effects are generally not permanent and may be reversed by discontinuing the abuse of inhalants. In some cases, these effects may not be fully reversible.

Inhalant abuse usually creates effects that mirror alcohol intoxication, but may also have psychoactive effects. Slurred speech, increased gregariousness, diminished motor skills, dizziness and hallucinations are common.

The immediate side-effects of inhalant abuse include:

  • Insomnia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headaches
  • Disorientation
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Suffocation
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting

Repeated inhalant abuse can have serious consequences on a person’s long-term physical and mental health. These effects are quite serious and can be life-threatening because the chemicals in inhalants can build up in the fatty tissue of major organs.

Some health consequences of long-term inhalant abuse include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Brain damage
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Changes in personality
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory damage
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    Recognizing an Inhalant Addiction

    It may be hard to determine if an addiction to inhalants exists since most people discontinue abusing inhalants when they reach a certain age. However, there are criteria established that are used to diagnose this addiction.

    It is characterized by having two or more of the 11 symptoms of a substance use disorder as outlined by the DSM. These criteria are based on repeated use of the drug despite known negative consequences. Someone addicted to inhalants will continue to use them in spite of their damaging health effects.

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    Intervention for an Inhalant Addiction

    Without the proper motivation, people addicted to inhalants may refuse to accept treatment. Staging an intervention is a good way to persuade someone with an addiction that they need help. If you are concerned that your loved one will be unresponsive or deny their problem when approached, you may need to contact a professional to help.

    Inhalant Withdrawal, Treatment and Next Steps

    Inhalant addiction may come with physical and psychological withdrawal effects. These symptoms may last for up to five days, but many people do not experience any withdrawal. Psychological withdrawal is marked by irritability and the inability to feel normal without the substance while physical withdrawal effects generally consist of headaches and fatigue.

    Treatment for an addiction to inhalants may include behavioral therapy, support groups, 12-step programs or inpatient rehabilitation programs.

    The type of treatment that is appropriate for each individual depends on the extent of their addiction and any underlying mental conditions. Find a treatment center for inhalant addiction now.

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