Inhalant Use Disorder

What is Inhalant Use Disorder

Inhalant use disorder is a behavioral and mental health disorder. People with this disorder inhale harmful fumes from common household products on purpose to get a feeling of well-being (euphoria).

These products commonly include:

  • Solvents. These are cleaning fluids such as paint thinner, nail polish remover, carpet cleaner, and degreasers.
  • Aerosols. These include hair spray, spray deodorants, spray paint, air fresheners, and computer air dusters.
  • Glues and adhesives.
  • Fuels, such as gasoline, lighter fluid (butane), and propane.
  • Other products, including nail polish, shoe polish, liquid correction fluid, and felt-tip markers.

The fumes may be inhaled through the nose, mouth, or both in the following ways:

  • Directly from the container. This is known as “glading” with air freshener and “dusting” with computer air dusters.
  • From a bag filled with fumes from the container.
  • From a rag soaked with liquid (huffing).

This disorder is most common among children and teenagers and usually stops during young adulthood. It can be treated with therapy and support groups.

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known.

What increases the risk?

Inhalant use disorder is more likely to develop if you have:

  • Difficulty accessing other drugs or alcohol due to age restrictions or finances.
  • A personal history of drug use.
  • A different mental condition, such as depression, anxiety, or antisocial personality disorder.

What are the signs or symptoms?

After inhaling fumes, effects start quickly and last for a short time. Short-term effects may include:

  • Euphoria.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Slowed movements.
  • Slowed thinking.
  • Shaking.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Changes in vision.

You may have inhalant use disorder if:

  • You use inhalants in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than planned.
  • You try to cut down or control inhalant use, but you are not able to.
  • You spend a lot of time getting or using inhalants or recovering from the effects.
  • You continue to use inhalants even if you have major problems at work, school, or home because of inhalant use.
  • You give up or cut down on important life activities because of inhalant use.
  • You use inhalants repeatedly in situations when it is unsafe, such as while driving a car.
  • You continue to use inhalants even though you know that you have physical and mental symptoms related to inhalant use.
  • You have to use higher amounts of inhalants to get the same or desired effect (tolerance).

Using inhalants frequently or for a long time can cause:

  • Problems with normal life activities or relationships.
  • Physical problems, such as:
    • Sores around the nose or mouth. This is referred to as “glue-sniffer’s rash.”
    • Long-term (chronic) runny nose or cough.
    • Lung problems.
    • Vision loss.
    • Long-term (chronic) pain due to nerve damage.
    • Abnormal movements due to brain damage.
    • Liver or kidney damage.
  • Mental problems, such as:
    • Depression.
    • Anxiety.
    • Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or tasting things that are not there (hallucinations).
    • Feeling paranoid (psychosis).
    • Problems with memory and thinking.

Severe inhalant intoxication may cause death due to impaired driving, coma, suffocation, or sudden abnormal heartbeats.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on:

  • An assessment by your health care provider. He or she may ask questions about your inhalant use and any problems it causes.
  • A physical exam.
  • Tests to check (screen) for drugs in your system.
  • An assessment by a mental health care provider.

How is this treated?

This condition is usually treated by mental health providers. Treatment may include:

  • Individual and family therapy to help you stop using inhalants. Therapy can help you:
    • Identify and avoid triggers for inhalant use.
    • Handle cravings.
    • Replace inhalant use with healthy activities.
    • Make a plan to continue to not use inhalants (maintain sobriety).
  • Support groups. These can provide emotional support, advice, and guidance.
  • Medicine to treat mental problems that are caused by inhalant use.

The most effective treatment is usually a combination of therapy, support groups, and family support.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider. Do not start taking any new over-the-counter or prescription medicines before first getting approval from your health care provider.
  • Attend family and individual therapy and support groups as recommended.
  • Try to avoid situations and people that trigger inhalant use for you. Find hobbies and activities that you enjoy instead, such as exercising or playing a sport.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or you develop new symptoms.
  • You are not able to take your medicines as instructed.

Get help right away if:

  • You have thoughts about hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You faint.
  • You have pain that gets worse or does not get better with medicine.

If you ever feel like you may hurt yourself or others, or have thoughts about taking your own life, get help right away. You can go to your nearest emergency department or call:

  • Your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).
  • A suicide crisis helpline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This is open 24 hours a day.

Summary

  • Inhalant use disorder occurs when people inhale harmful fumes from common household products on purpose to get a feeling of well-being (euphoria).
  • These products are often used by children and teens who may also have depression or anxiety. If you are depressed or anxious, it is important to get help from a mental health care provider.
  • Using inhalants frequently or for a long time can cause a variety of dangerous mental and physical problems.
  • The most effective treatment is usually a combination of therapy, support groups, and family support. Therapy can help you maintain sobriety.
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