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Can You Get Addicted to Inhalants? | Commonly Abused Inhalants

National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week is March 22-28. Understanding more about commonly abused inhalants can help prevent the negative effects of inhaling, that can sometimes be devastating. Many might ask whether you can get addicted to inhalants. These substances, often found in household products, are dangerous and can become addictive.

Commonly Abused Inhalants

Most of the commonly abused inhalants are products found around the house or in a business environment. Household products that contain volatile chemicals produce vapors. Those vapors can be inhaled. Common products that can become abused inhalants include:

  • Aerosols: hair spray, air freshener, vegetable oil spray, fabric protector, spray deodorant, and spray paint
  • Gases: computer cleaning spray, freon, nitrous oxide found in whipped cream containers, propane, lighter fluid, and helium
  • Solvents: fast-drying glue, felt-tip markers, nail polish remover, paint thinner, degreaser, and correction fluid
  • Nitrites: no longer sold legally but can be bought illegally, labeled as “liquid aroma” or “leather cleaner.”

Dangers of Inhalant Abuse

Inhaling these substances can cause serious health issues and even death. Chemical vapors are inhaled directly from open containers or from rags soaked in the chemical substance. Abusing inhalants is referred to as “huffing,” with the rag being held to the face or stuffed in the mouth. Spray aerosols are directed into the nose or mouth or sprayed onto the individual’s shirt so they can be sniffed off the clothing. A process known as “bagging” involves substances being sprayed or deposited inside a bag and then inhaled.

The side effects from the abuse of these inhalants can include strong hallucinations and delusions, impaired judgment, belligerence, apathy, and dizziness. Long-term abusers suffer more severe health effects, including muscle weakness, lack of coordination, irritability, weight loss, disorientation, and depression.

Chronic abuse of inhalants can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible damage to an individual’s brain, liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart. Brain damage could cause diminished cognitive functioning, memory impairment, slurred speech, and personality changes. Death can also result from inhaling these substances, whether doing it one time or because of a continued addiction.

Overdosing on Inhalants

Overdosing is possible when inhaling substances such as solvents and aerosols. When an individual uses too much of any drug, including these commonly abused inhalants, and has a toxic reaction to the chemicals, it can result in serious and harmful effects, including seizures, coma, and even death.

Solvents and aerosol sprays are typically highly concentrated, so they contain a large amount of chemicals. Sniffing any of these products, even once, can cause the heart to stop within minutes. Sudden sniffing death can happen to even the healthiest of young people. In addition, inhaling from a paper or plastic bag or inhaling in an enclosed area can result in death from suffocation.

Can Inhalants Lead to Addiction?

Although people may believe that inhaling common household products is relatively harmless, inhalants can lead to addiction. Repeatedly using inhalants is a form of substance use disorder. This type of disorder occurs when using a particular drug, including an inhalant, causes health problems as well as issues with completing normal life tasks such as meeting work or family responsibilities.

An individual who is addicted to inhalants may use different products repeatedly throughout the day, depending on what is available. This type of behavior can lead to more serious, and sometimes devastating, consequences for the person’s mental and physical health.

Treatment for Inhalant Abuse and Addiction

It is important to seek professional treatment for this addiction. When an individual tries to give up inhaling, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms, which can include tremors, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, sweating, rapid pulse, hallucinations, and seizures.

Therapy can help the individual abusing inhalants discover the underlying causes of their addiction. Approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy are effective for helping a person recognize, avoid, and cope with situations that would tempt them to use inhalants.


When you are struggling with an addiction to inhalants, recovery starts with supervised detox to safely manage your withdrawal symptoms. At BRC Recovery, we help you heal your mind and your body while addressing the underlying issues that lead to your inhalant abuse and addiction. We bring you real change for your life, with proven treatment options that will empower you to recreate and reclaim your life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we offer a safe, clean environment so you can continue receiving the highest quality of care. To learn more about our services and to get the help you need, please call BRC Recovery at 1-866-291-2676 to speak to our team.