Types of Drugs That Are Inhaled

Inhaling the fumes from certain everyday products is one of the most dangerous ways drugs are taken.

This article will take a closer look at inhalant misuse and its potential effects, and provide more information on how to get help if you or a loved one has lost control of their drug use.

What Are Inhalants?

aerosol sprays are a common form of inhalant drugInhalants are substances, solvents, and gases that people inhale into their lungs for the purposes of getting high. This is often popular among young people and teens.

The alarming thing about inhalants is that they’re typically completely legal. In fact, they tend to be common household products that can be purchased at any supermarket, like cleaners, butane, or aerosol sprays.

Paint thinner, felt-tip markers, lighter fluid, and even the gas in whipped cream cans can be used to get high if inhaled, although the high may only last a few minutes.

Other inhalants are illicit drugs, particularly nitrites. Some inhalants are smoked or vaporized using specific paraphernalia.

Inhaling can be one of the most damaging and dangerous forms of drug use, due to the extremely harsh chemicals found in these items.

What Are the Most Common Inhalant Drugs?

According to the DEA, there are over 1,000 different products that are very dangerous when inhaled. The most common inhalants include:

  • Glue.
  • Shoe polish.
  • Toluene.
  • Nitrous oxide or “whippets.”
  • Gasoline.
  • Spray paint.
  • Lighter fluid.
  • Paint thinner.
  • Wite-out (correction fluid).
  • Spray paint.
  • Amyl nitrite or “poppers.”

Nitrites are different from other inhalants. Rather than producing an intoxicating effect, they dilate and relax the blood vessels, which increases sexual pleasure.

Nitrates are most likely to be used by adults, while the other inhalants are more commonly misused by middle and high school students. Around 13% of all 8th graders report having used inhalants to get high at least once.

Effects of Inhalants

Most inhalants produce a depressant effect similar to that of alcohol. Users may experience a feeling of euphoria followed by other short-term effects of intoxication, including:

  • Dizziness.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Impaired coordination.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Hallucinations or delusions.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Headache.

Repeated use of inhalants may lead to more severe health issues, due to the fact that the chemicals in inhalants are too toxic and concentrated to be effectively processed.

These long-term effects of inhalant use can include:

  • Liver and kidney damage.
  • Nerve damage (resulting in permanent loss of coordination and chronic limb spasms).
  • Hearing loss.
  • Bone marrow damage.

Too much inhaling, especially during the process of “bagging” in which chemicals are put into a paper or plastic bag so they can be breathed in more efficiently, can cut off oxygen flow to the brain, resulting in brain damage.

The most immediate health concern involving inhalants is a phenomenon called “sudden sniffing death.” A completely health person can suffer sudden heart failure and death from a single session of huffing a high concentration of chemicals. Extreme cases of lack of oxygen to the brain can even result in suffocation.

Additionally, inhaling nitrites is associated with a higher rate of unsafe sexual activity and the contraction of HIV.

FAQs About Inhalant Drugs

Getting Help for an Addiction to Inhalants

At our inpatient rehab facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, we specialize in the treatment of co-occurring disorders and provide a full range of care, from medical detox and inpatient or residential treatment to sober living and various levels of outpatient services.

To learn more about our high-quality programs, paying for rehab, using insurance to pay for rehab, or how to help a loved one with addiction, call us at  today. Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer any questions and start the admissions process.

Or you can check whether we accept your insurance and verify your benefits by filling out this quick and confidential

Quality, evidence-based treatment can help put you or your loved one on the path to recovery. At Desert Hope, we are here to support and guide you along this life-saving journey.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

The Price of Not Getting Help
When contemplating the costs of addiction treatment for yourself, child, or loved one, consider the costs, or consequences, of “things as they are now.” What would happen if the substance abuse or addiction continued? Rehab doesn't have to be expensive. We accept a variety of insurances. Learn more below.