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Inhalant Withdrawal and Detox

While inhalant withdrawal symptoms are typically mild, some users are at risk for more serious symptoms, such as seizures. Completing withdrawal in a medical detox program is the best option for long-term inhalant users.

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What Is Inhalant Withdrawal?

While the risk of developing a physical dependence on inhalants is relatively low, many users quickly become psychologically addicted. When a person addicted to inhalants suddenly stops using them, their body goes through withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s response to no longer having a substance it is dependent on. Because inhalants are central nervous system (CNS) depressants, the user’s physiological functions are suppressed when using the drugs. When the person quits using, the functions that had been suppressed become overactive. This causes uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and nausea, among others.

Symptoms of inhalant withdrawal are typically mild, but the process can still be difficult. Addicted users are advised to consult a doctor before quitting inhalants or to complete the withdrawal process at a drug treatment center. Please call if you need help finding treatment.

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can be both psychological and physical in nature. While symptoms are usually mild, those who have a long history of inhalant abuse may experience severe symptoms like seizures.

Common and/or severe inhalant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Hand tremors
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia

  • Cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Restlessness
  • Mood changes
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anger outbursts

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Duration of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms generally present within the first 24 to 48 hours after the last use. The duration and severity of symptoms vary from user to user, but most people go through the worst of withdrawal in about a week. Psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings and depression, can last significantly longer than any physical symptoms. Some inhalant users have reported suffering from psychological withdrawal for months after quitting. This phenomenon is known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS. In some severe cases, PAWS can last up to 18-24 months.

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Inhalant Withdrawal Timeline

It is not possible to produce a precise inhalant withdrawal timeline, because there are a number of factors that influence the duration of each individual’s specific withdrawal. These factors include:

  • Type of inhalant(s) abused
  • Specific product(s) abused
  • The length of time the user abused inhalants
  • How frequently the user abused inhalants
  • Whether the user abused inhalants with other drugs
  • The user’s mental health and medical history
  • Gender
  • Body weight

However, it is possible to create a general inhalant withdrawal timeline for the average inhalant user.

Days 1-2 Physical symptoms are often the first to present and usually begin within 48 hours of quitting use. These symptoms may include hand tremors, sweating, vomiting and, in severe cases, seizures. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, cravings, insomnia and irritability, may also set in. In some cases, hallucinations or psychosis can present.
Days 3-7 Over the next two to five days, most physical symptoms begin to fade. However, psychological symptoms often remain strong during this time. Depression may set in, and anxiety and insomnia will likely persist. In most cases, psychosis and hallucinations fade quickly.
Days 8+ Over the next few weeks, most symptoms continue to fade until they’re nonexistent. Depression and cravings may linger as the user’s body continues to readjust. It may take a month or two for these symptoms to completely go away.

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Inhalant Detox

The inhalant withdrawal process can be physically and mentally taxing, putting recovering users at risk for relapse. To prevent relapse, it is recommended that patients detox in a drug treatment center under the supervision of experienced medical professionals.

“It is crucial to provide the patient with an environment of safety that removes him or her from access to inhalants.”

- SAMHSA, Quick Guide For Clinicians Based on TIP 45, 2006

While there are no medications specifically designated to help alleviate the symptoms of inhalant withdrawal, but doctors may recommend medications to help with nausea, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety. Because inhalant drugs have adverse short-term and long-term effects on the body, usage is not tapered off. Instead, patients must quit immediately upon entering a program.

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Treatment for Inhalant Addiction

Getting treatment at an inpatient or outpatient treatment center will give inhalant users their best chance at becoming sober. Treatment for inhalant addiction typically starts with medical detox, followed by various therapies to change the underlying thoughts and behaviors that led to the addiction. Support groups often play a large role throughout the treatment process, as well as after rehab.

If you or someone you love is addicted to inhalants, get help now. Contact a treatment provider today for help finding an inhalant addiction treatment program.

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