What Are Inhalants?

Pronounced as [in-hey-luh nts]

Inhalants are compounds or chemicals that easily emit vapor or readily evaporate to a gas at room temperature. These vapors are then inhaled by the users to get a quick high feeling which has a psychotic impact towards the user.

These substances are also sold at clubs and concerts where they are commonly known as “poppers”, “snappers”, or “whippets”.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are four major classifications of inhalants: aerosols, gases, nitrites, and volatile solvents. This classification is based on the physical form or state of the compound as often seen in households or in the industries.

What are the Classifications of Inhalants?

Volatile Solvents

In mixtures or solutions, solvents mostly come in larger amounts and they dissolve the solute. Volatile solvents are liquid substances that easily evaporate at room temperature.

Products under this category can be readily bought in convenient or retail stores. A few examples of volatile compounds include glues, lacquer thinners, gasoline, paints, correction fluids and paint removers.


Aerosol spray products are a combination of solvents and propellants which are commonly stored and sold in cans. The substance inside the can is dispensed through spraying to create a mist of the liquid aerosols.

Examples of aerosol spray products include air fresheners, deodorant, fabric protectants, cooking oil sprays and spray paint.


Gas products can be both organic or inorganic compounds. They are sold and found as household, industrial, or medical anesthetic products.

Gas products sold as medical anesthetics include chloroform, halogenated ethers such as halothane, nitrous oxide (popularly known as “laughing gas”), enflurane, isoflurane and desflurane.

Nitrous oxide or the laughing gas is the most utilized gas product in the industry and in households. They are also a component in whipped creams for household usage. Nitrous oxides are also used in race cars to increase octane levels in their fuel.

Several commercial products also contain gases. These commercial products include propane fuel tanks, butane lighters, liquid petroleum gases, and refrigerants.


In comparison to other inhalants, nitrites are a unique category of inhalants.

Generally, inhalants’ impact is directed towards the brain or central nervous system. However, nitrites act differently because they tend to expand blood vessels and induces muscle relaxation.

The common use of inhalants is to alter mood, nitrites on the other, are used to increase sexual drive or stamina. Examples of nitrite compounds are isoamyl (amyl) nitrite, cyclohexyl nitrite, isobutyl or butyl nitrite or popularly known as “poppers” or “snappers”.

Some household nitrites stored and sold in amber bottles are room odorizer, leather cleaning agent, video head cleaning agent, and liquid aroma.

What Does an Inhalant Look Like?

Most inhalants are liquid substances stored in cans, PET bottles, glass or amber bottles that easily turn to vapors at room temperatures.

Some inhalants are stored in a pressurized container to prevent it from vaporizing. Most of it is stored in pressurized containers and dispenses into a thin mist of liquid particles via spraying.

What are some Chemical or Pharmaceutical Names for Inhalants?

Here, we’re going to enumerate a few of the common chemical or pharmaceutical names of these drugs.

  • Isoamyl (amyl) nitrite
  • Cyclohexyl nitrite
  • Isobutyl or butyl nitrite
  • Halothane
  • Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”)
  • Enflurane
  • Isoflurane
  • Desflurane

What are the Street Names for Inhalants?

There are several chemical and pharmaceutical terms for a specific inhalant substance. However, it’s also better that we know the street names for these drugs

Here, we’re going to enumerate a few known street names for these drugs.

Air blastSnappersMedusa
Hiagra in a bottleAroma of menTexas shoe shine
Rush SnappersLaughing gasBullet
AmesSnotballsMoon gas
Satan’s secretLocker roomBullet bolt
HuffBoppersToilet water
Buzz bombPearlsToncho
DiscoramaPoor man’s potWhippets

How are Inhalants being used?

Any kind of drug has their respective method of usage. For Inhalants, they are typically inhaled through the nose or mouth in several methods, that include:

  • Snorting from small holes or openings from its containers
  • Direct spray application of aerosols into the user’s nose or mouth
  • Using bags, either paper or plastic, to sniff or snort the drug
  • Huffing: rag soaked in a solvent and is placed into the mouth and inhaled from there
  • Nitrous oxide filled balloons are sniffed directly into the nose

How does an Inhalant work?

The process starts when a person uses an inhalant substance. Once inhaled, the chemicals quickly mix into the bloodstream and run through the lungs and are distributed among all parts of the body.

When the chemical reaches the brain, the user feels intoxicated and other side-effects of alcoholism. These comparable side-effects accompanied by alcohol intoxication include disturbed verbal or speech ability, uncoordinated muscle movements, dizziness and a feeling of highness.

Further, depending on the amount absorbed, the user might also experience hallucinations, delusions and a feeling of being lightheaded.

How strong is an Inhalant?

The strength of an inhalant can be very detrimental, for naturally, they pose a high risk for nervous system breakdown.

Toluene and Naphthalene

are the two inhalant substances which have a great impact on damaging nerve tissues and the peripheral nervous system. This is the same effect you get when you have multiple sclerosis.

Furthermore, the intensity of an inhalant’s impact is greatly dependent on the user’s consumption level. A few of the strong inhalants are nitrite-based such as cyclohexyl nitrite, isoamyl (amyl) nitrite and isobutyl (butyl) nitrites. These drugs are more popularly known as “poppers” or “snappers” in the streets.

How long does an Inhalant stay in your body?

Inhalant substances have very short lifespan because of its instability in chemical composition.

On the average, the substance stays inside the body for around two weeks. The chemicals are excreted out from the body either through exhaling or urine.

Moreover, other physiological factors affect how quickly the body can eliminate and excrete the inhalant chemicals from the inside. These factors include metabolism, organ health, genes, and age.

What are the Factors Influencing Inhalant Stays Inside the Body?

Despite the short life-span of most inhalant substances, physiological factors also affect how long it stays inside the body.

Consider the following physiological factors that affect how long an inhalant stays inside your system.

  • Age: Body efficiency degrades with increasing age. Considering you’re still young, your body has enough strength and efficiency to counteract and excrete the toxic chemicals in your system.
  • Weight/Height/Fat Body Content: Individuals who are bigger and taller, need more medication to get rid of the toxic chemicals inside their system. Likewise, the bigger the individual, the more inhalant substance one can consume.
  • Metabolism: Metabolism can also be linked to genetics and heredity. If your family has a fast and strong metabolism, then your body can take out the toxic chemicals in a faster span of time. In contrast, slower metabolism entails a slower process of excreting the chemicals out from the body.

How Can You Tell if a Person Abuses Inhalants?

The best cure for any drug addiction will be early detection and prevention of drug abuse. Guardians, parents, guidance counsellors and educators must know how to detect early signs of drug abuse using inhalants.

Below will be some of the most common early signs of inhalant abuse:

  • Stain presence of paint or solvents on the face, hands and garment of the individual
  • An alcoholic-like appearance such as dizziness and uncoordinated body movements
  • Inability to speak well
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Distinct inhalant odor from breath or garments
  • Inability to focus and easily gets irritated

How does an Inhalant affect the brain and the body?

Breathing inhalants directly attack the central and peripheral nervous system.

Below will be the common effects of inhalants in the brain:

  • Uncoordinated body movements
  • A feeling of “high” or euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to speak well
  • Being lightheaded
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations

What are the short and long-term effects of Inhalants?

The comparable impact of inhalant abuse will be that of alcohol intoxication.

Short-term effects of Inhalants:

  • Inability to balance and uncoordinated muscle movements
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to speak fluently
  • Quick mood swings
  • Hallucinations

Long-term effects of Inhalants:

  • Liver and kidney failure
  • Central and Peripheral Nervous system damage
  • Loss of hearing
  • Limb spasms
  • Damaged bone marrow

What causes Inhalant overdose?

A person can have inhalant overdose by sniffing or breathing an excessive amount of the chemicals into the body. However, there are some chemicals that can instantly cause damage even with just a small amount of it inhaled.

Around 2.6 million kids from the age group of 12 to 17 have been reported to misuse inhalant substances. Medical prescriptions must be provided by your doctor when your child needs to breathe an inhalant.

What are other medical consequences of inhalant abuse?

Inhalant abuse can cause several detrimental effects on the body. Solvents and aerosol sprays can cause fast and irregular heartbeats which may lead to cardiac arrest and death of the user.

Below are some of the worse effects of inhalant abuse that may lead to death:

  • Asphyxiation: Oxygen is being displaced inside the lungs because an excessive amount of fumes being inhaled
  • Suffocation: No oxygen enters the lungs because it’s being blocked by the fumes
  • Convulsion or Seizures: Inhalants directly attack the brain which causes malfunction. The brain emits uncontrolled electrical discharges which leads to sudden and uncontrolled muscle contractions.
  • Coma: The brain no longer functions and so body movements will be suspended
  • Choking: When the user unknowingly inhales the vomit
  • Severe accident: Inhalant abuse leads to uncoordinated muscle movement which makes you prone to accidents.
  • Permanent nerve fiber damage: Strong inhalants like toluene and naphthalene are capable of destroying the nerve endings of your brain.

What are the Unique Risks of Nitrite Abuse?

Since Nitrites have a different effect on the body, they also pose unique risks.

Most users of this type are adults and adolescents because they want to enhance their sexual performance. In relation, most of the users are also engaged in unsafe sex which poses greater risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

Nitrite compounds inside the body kill cells which strengthen the immune system to fight diseases. Hence, inhaling nitrite-base compounds will give you a higher chance of getting infectious diseases and tumors.

What are the withdrawal symptoms from Inhalant Abuse?

When a user undergoes medication from inhalant abuse, just like any other addiction, withdrawal effects.

Here are some of the possible withdrawal symptoms that people may experience when detoxing from inhalants.

  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sudden mood swings

What are some of the Treatments for Inhalant addiction?

To treat inhalant addiction, one must undergo a behavioral treatment process.

However, the first thing a user must do to ensure effective treatment is to be self-aware that he or she needs assistance and acceptance.

The patient may undergo a combination of treatment programs such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational incentives, 12-step recovery program, inpatient and outpatient therapy to ensure effective treatment and recovery from addiction.

Cognitive-Behavioral therapy assists the patient in accepting the situation and voluntarily doing things needed to cope with the drug addiction.

Motivational incentives utilize vouchers or a small amount of cash incentive for any positive signs of effective treatment.

Taking part in 12-step programs can also help the individual to gain self-awareness of one’s weakness and accept the need for outside assistance. In this program, addicts are arranged in a group. The members of the group formed are encouraged to share one's experiences while the others listen and provide moral support and empathy.

Fogoros, R. N. (n.d.). Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Inhalants.

Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/inhalants-frequently-asked-questions-67466

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National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Inhalants. Retrieved from


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Retrieved from https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/inhalants.html