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The Dangers of Inhalant Use Among Young Adults

Though many parents are aware of the risks of intoxicants such as marijuana and alcohol, they often overlook the dangers of common household products like nail polish remover, paint thinner, lighter fluid, canned whipped cream and cleaning solvents. Since these substances are widely available, inexpensive and easy to obtain, many young adults inhale their vapors in search of a rapid high without realizing the severe health consequences that can result. As we approach National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week, what risks do inhalants pose, and how can you spot the signs of inhalant use in your son?

What Are Inhalants?

Inhaling various substances through the nose or mouth causes rapid absorption into the bloodstream through the lungs, creating a nearly instant high. When inhaled in sufficient amounts, nearly all solvents and gases produce an initial excitation period, followed by drowsiness, lightheadedness and a lack of impulse control. They can also lead to unconsciousness. 

Because inhalants are so prevalent in most households, they are often the first drugs teens and young adults experiment with. Drug use and abuse from a young age can establish a pattern that might last through adulthood. Inhalants’ side effects are especially dangerous in people under 25, because the brain does not finish developing until then.

How Do People Use Inhalants?

Some of the ways young adults use inhalants include:

  • Sniffing or snorting vapors from containers
  • Spraying aerosols directly into their nose or mouth
  • Inhaling fumes from chemicals sprayed or placed in a plastic or paper bag
  • Soaking a cloth in chemicals and holding it to their nose and mouth
  • Inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide

Some of the methods used to sniff inhalants allow users to hide their activity. For example, people who soak their shirt collars or sleeves in substances can covertly inhale the fumes at school or work. Many common work and school supplies, like correction fluid and permanent markers, can also produce a high when inhaled, making their use easy to disguise.

How to Tell If Someone You Love Is Abusing Inhalants

A severe risk factor of inhalant misuse is that the high is very short-lived, prompting users to inhale repeatedly to try to maintain the euphoric feelings. Inhalant abuse can have long-term health effects, including brain damage, hearing loss and death.

Inhalant abusers may exhibit warning signs like these:

  • Confusion or trouble concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Significant behavioral changes, including a lack of interest in formerly enjoyable hobbies
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid decline in school or work performance
  • Poor hygiene and grooming habits
  • Slurred speech
  • Runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Fatigue and irritability

Treatment Options for Inhalant Addiction

If your son is misusing inhalants, treatment options are available to help him get his life back on track. Professional therapy from a licensed counselor can help reverse negative thought and behavioral patterns. Family counseling is also a solution to repair damaged relationships and identify any dysfunction in your family dynamic. Learning how to have fun in sobriety can also teach young adults that a rewarding, fulfilling life is possible without relying on intoxicants. 

At Spearhead Lodge, we offer world-class treatment for young men stuck in the cycle of substance abuse. Contact us today to learn more about putting your son on a healthy path forward.