Inhalant Abuse Symptoms

Inhalant abuse symptoms can be hard to detect, partly because the effects of the drugs 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 one 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
  • Drunken 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. That means 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; use is typically discontinued as users get older. In some cases, teens who abused inhalants may go on to experiment with other, more dangerous drugs. This is due to inhalants being very dangerous, causing long-term permanent effects. There is a potential for abuse, as well as for injuring oneself during a black out. Inhalants are just as dangerous as many other drugs, they are just less commonly talked about. A teen with a history of Inhalant abuse may be struggling with an underlying disorder that could be effectively addressed through treatment and rehab.

The Dangers Of Inhalants

The short-lived effects of inhalants may lead people to incorrectly assume that these substances aren’t that dangerous. Many individuals also feel inhalants aren’t that dangerous because they can be easily found around the house. However, inhalants are actually just as dangerous as many hard drugs. Inhalants can cause heart failure and respiratory distress, which could result in a fatal overdose even with the first use.

Chronic abuse of inhalants can be incredibly destructive; abusing the paint-dissolving chemical toluene, for instance, may produce neurological symptoms strikingly similar to multiple sclerosis.

Other physiological side effects may include brain degeneration or symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Depending on the type of inhalant being abused, side effects may not be permanent and could be reversed by discontinuing use. In some cases, however, these effects may be permanent. Some examples of permanent damage caused by inhalant use include damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain, including permanent death of brain cells, resulting in memory loss and difficulty obtaining new knowledge. These side effects are especially dangerous in individuals under the age of 25, whose brains are not yet fully developed. In some cases, the brain may never fully develop. This is referred to as delayed behavioral development.

Inhalant abuse usually creates effects that mirror those of alcohol intoxication. 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
  • 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 of the way the chemicals in inhalants can build up in the fatty tissue of major vital organs.

Some health consequences of long-term inhalant abuse include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Brain damage
  • Death of brain cells
  • Memory loss
  • Learning difficulties
  • Delayed behavioral development
  • Loss of vision
  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Changes in personality
  • Muscle deterioration
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory damage
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Loss of coordination
  • Limb spasms

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Recognizing Inhalant Abuse Symptoms

It may be hard to determine if an addiction to inhalants exists. However, there are criteria established that are used to diagnose this addiction. Two or more of the 11 symptoms of a substance use disorder as outlined by the DSM must be present in order to diagnose the condition. Someone addicted to inhalants will continue to use them in spite of their damaging health effects.

Intervention For An Inhalant Addiction

Without the proper motivation, people addicted to inhalants may refuse to accept treatment. Staging an intervention could be 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

Quitting inhalants 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 at all. 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.

Symptoms of inhalant withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Poor attention and concentration
  • Intense cravings

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. Contact a treatment provider now to learn more.