Substance Use

What Are the Side Effects of Inhalants Abuse?

young man huffing inhalants

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Side Effects and Dangers of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse, or “huffing,” can be hard to detect. This is mostly because the effects of inhalants are very short-lived, and instead of illegal drugs and paraphernalia, people use common household aerosol sprays and paint thinners to get high. Inhalant abuse is extremely dangerous and can quickly spiral into an addiction. Keep reading to learn more about inhalant addiction, types of inhalants, the health effects of huffing, and how to get help today.

Are you worried about a loved one’s inhalant abuse? Zinnia Health can help. Call us today at (855) 430-9439 to speak with our compassionate and caring team of intake specialists. Help is standing by 24/7.

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What Are Inhalants?

As their name suggests, inhalants are substances that produce a high when inhaled. Products that are commonly used as inhalants include a variety of solvents, aerosols, gases, and nitrites.


  • Paint thinner
  • Paint remover
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Glue


  • Spray paint
  • Hairspray
  • Deodorant spray
  • Aerosol computer cleaner
  • Vegetable oil spray


  • Butane lighters
  • Propane tanks
  • Whipped cream aerosols and/or dispensers (whippets)
  • Nitrous oxide


  • Video head cleaner
  • Leather cleaner
  • Room deodorizer
  • Liquid aroma

Inhalants produce a high due to the psychoactive ingredients they contain that are activated when the substances are sniffed, snorted, or inhaled.

Young kids and teenagers are the most frequent users of inhalants because of how easily accessible they are, with little to no money required to purchase them.

Inhalants can be abused in a number of ways, including:

  • Sniffing or snorting the fumes directly from a container
  • Using an inhalant-soaked rag to “huff” the fumes directly into the mouth
  • Spraying fumes into a plastic bag and inhaling them, which is known as “bagging”
  • Using balloons or canisters, known as “whippets,” to inhale nitrous oxide
  • Spraying aerosols directly into the nose or mouth

What Are Common Side Effects of Inhalants?

Although inhalant abuse may be hard to detect, it’s not impossible. There are some telltale signs that someone is abusing inhalants, such as:

  • Unusual-smelling or chemical-smelling breath
  • Drunken appearance
  • Red eyes
  • Mouth sores
  • Runny nose
  • Paint or stains on clothing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety

What Are Short-Term Side Effects of Inhalants?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), inhalant users risk the following side effects in the short term:

  • Dilated blood vessels
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excited feeling
  • Flush
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Lack and/or loss of coordination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hallucinations
  • Stupor
  • Convulsions
  • Suffocation
  • Coma
  • Sudden sniffing death

Sudden sniffing death is a serious and deadly syndrome that happens when inhalant use causes fatal heart failure. This can happen as fast as a few minutes after huffing and is possible the first time a person uses inhalants.

What Are Long-Term Side Effects of Inhalants?

Long-term side effects of inhalant use include:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Limb spasms
  • Delayed behavioral development
  • Brain damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Heart failure
  • Addiction

Signs to look out for that someone may be suffering from an inhalant addiction include:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Paint-stained fingers, clothes, and/or other parts of the body
  • Smelling like chemicals
  • Glassy eyes
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Falling grades
  • Neglecting all responsibilities
  • Finding hidden rags and chemicals
  • Missing or empty aerosol cans
  • Missing money
  • Carrying butane lighters
  • Painting nails with typing correction fluid
  • Sniffing pens
  • Sniffing their hands and/or sleeves

As users become addicted to inhalants, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to cut back or quit using them.

Some of the most common symptoms of inhalant withdrawal include: 

  • Hand tremors
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Do Inhalants Affect Your Personality?

One of the most significant dangers of inhalant abuse is brain damage. Brain damage can alter every aspect of a person, including their personality and mental health.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), all inhalants can be addictive.

Some of the personality changes the DSM attributes to inhalant use disorder include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance use disorders
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Active suicide attempts

When someone suffers from an addiction — or multiple addictions — in addition to a mental health condition, it’s referred to as a co-occurring disorder and requires specialized treatment. At Zinnia Health, our team has the experience and expertise needed to treat these conditions. 

Learn more about co-occurring disorder treatment at Zinnia Health here.

What Drugs, Substances, or Supplements Interact with Inhalants?

Mixing inhalants with other substances adds to the danger and increases the likelihood of dependence and withdrawal. You should never combine inhalants with any other substance, such as:


As we mentioned, inhalants have the potential to cause brain damage when ingested on their own. When mixed with alcohol, these detrimental effects become deadly. This is because alcohol and inhalants both act as depressants in the body and slow down activity in the central nervous system. When this happens, the risk of respiratory and cardiac arrest amplifies dramatically while muscle movement slows.

Common effects of mixing alcohol and inhalants include:

  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Erratic behavior
  • Bad breath
  • Hallucinations
  • Dramatic weight loss

Benzodiazepines and Opioids

The effects of combining inhalants with benzodiazepines and/or opioids can be unpredictable and dangerous. Mixing these substances puts an incredible strain on the body and can impact breathing, increasing the risk of losing consciousness and suffocating.


Stimulants, which span energy drinks all the way to cocaine, increase the heart rate. When combined with inhalants, judgment becomes clouded, and inhibitions are lowered. This leads to more risk-taking and bad choices that can lead to various health and legal problems.

Zinnia Health Can Help

If you’re ready to stop abusing inhalants today, Zinnia Health can help. We have a wide range of treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient options, behavioral therapy, and group and family therapy options for the most comprehensive treatment. Contact us today to learn more.

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(855) 430-9439
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