Inhalants encompass a variety of substances that emit vapors or are aerosolized and are inhaled for their psychoactive effects. These substances are often found in everyday household and workplace items and include solvents, aerosol sprays, nitrites, and gasses.
While these products are generally safe when used as intended, inhaling them can be dangerous. Prolonged inhalation of certain inhalants can result in serious health issues such as brain damage due to asphyxia, progressive liver damage, hearing loss, or bone marrow disorders. Beyond this, the use of inhalants can be deadly, even from the first instance of use. Read on to learn more about the addictive properties of inhalants.
Inhalant use disorder (inhalant addiction) is defined as problematic use of inhalants leading to significant distress or clinical impairment. Research shows that 70% of those with inhalant addictions also develop a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, or personality disorder.
Inhalant addiction can be identified if at least two of the following signs present during a one-year period:
- Using more of the inhalant, or for longer periods than intended.
- A continuous but unsuccessful desire to reduce or control inhalant use.
- Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of inhalants.
- Strong cravings or urges to use inhalants.
- Regular use of inhalants leading to not meeting responsibilities at work, school, or home.
- Continuing to use inhalants even though they cause or worsen social or relationship problems.
- Quitting or cutting back on important social, work, or fun activities due to inhalant use.
- Using inhalants in dangerous situations.
- Keep using inhalants despite knowing they are causing or aggravating physical or mental health issues.
- Developing tolerance, meaning needing more inhalants to feel the same effects or noticing that the same amount has less effect than before.
While inhalant withdrawal symptoms are typically mild, the DSM-5 doesn’t consider withdrawal as a major criterion for diagnosing inhalant addiction.
How Addictive Are Inhalants?
The development of physical dependence from abusing inhalants is a subject of debate. That said, it is evident that individuals who misuse inhalants often display many of the same addictive behaviors seen in those who use other addictive substances like alcohol, opioids, or anti-anxiety medications.
NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that although some people have seizures have been reported in some cases as a withdrawal symptom from inhalants, most people primarily experience psychological and emotional symptoms when they stop using them.
Using a substance or drug to stave off withdrawal symptoms is a typical sign of compulsive behavior, which is often linked to moderate to severe substance use disorders (addiction). This kind of repetitive behavior tends to worsen the problems and dysfunction related to their substance use.
What Makes Inhalants Addictive?
Inhalants are addictive due to several factors that affect both the brain and behavior:
- Rapid onset of effects: Inhalants act quickly on the brain, producing immediate effects. This rapid onset can be appealing and lead to a pattern of repeated use to recreate or sustain these effects.
- Changes triggered to brain chemistry: Inhalants impact brain chemistry, particularly affecting neurotransmitters like dopamine, which plays a significant role in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. This alteration can create a sense of euphoria, encouraging repeated use.
- Development of tolerance: Over time, people may require larger amounts of inhalants to achieve the same effects, leading to increased usage and reinforcing addictive behavior.
- Formation of psychological dependence: Individuals may develop a strong psychological dependence on inhalants. The escape or relief from stress that inhalants provide can make them psychologically addictive, with people relying on them to cope with emotions or situations.
Understanding the addictive nature of inhalants can help inform prevention and treatment. Recognizing the signs of inhalant abuse and seeking professional help is vital for those struggling with addiction.
Why Do Drug Addicts Use Inhalers?
Drug addicts may turn to inhalants for several reasons, often related to the unique properties of these substances and the specific circumstances of the individual:
Ease of access
Inhalants are readily available and can be found in many household and workplace products. This easy access makes them a go-to option, especially for people who may have difficulty obtaining other substances.
Compared to many other drugs, inhalants are relatively inexpensive, making them a more accessible option for individuals with financial constraints.
Inhalants act very quickly, producing almost instantaneous effects. This immediate high can be appealing to individuals seeking rapid relief or a quick escape from their reality.
Lack of legal repercussions
Many inhalants are legal, everyday substances, which may lead people to perceive them as safer or less risky in terms of legal consequences compared to illicit drugs.
The effects of inhalants, such as euphoria, hallucinations, or altered perception, provide a temporary escape from emotional or psychological distress, which can be appealing to individuals struggling with mental health issues or stressful life circumstances.
Experimentation or peer pressure
Some individuals, particularly younger adults, might try inhalants due to curiosity, peer pressure, or as part of a pattern of experimenting with various substances.
Individuals addicted to other substances may use inhalants as an alternative or supplement to their drug of choice, particularly in situations where their preferred substance is unavailable.
Tolerance and escalation
For those who have developed a tolerance to other drugs, inhalants might be used in an attempt to achieve a more intense or different type of high.
Any use of inhalants, while seemingly less harmful due to their legality and availability, carries significant health risks and potential for addiction. Understanding the reasons behind their use is crucial in addressing substance abuse and providing appropriate support and treatment.
Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers
If you require evidence-based huffing addiction treatment, we can help you with this at Ohio Recovery Centers. We treat addictions in an outpatient setting, providing you with a flexible, affordable pathway to addiction recovery while enabling you to fulfill your everyday obligations. Treatment is available at varying levels of intensity to suit individual needs.
All drug addiction treatment programs at our rehab in Cincinnati deliver a personalized blend of medications, psychotherapies, counseling, and holistic interventions. Ohio Recovery Centers treatment programs also feature a comprehensive aftercare aspect to help you maintain ongoing sobriety.
When you are ready to move beyond inhalant addiction, get help right away by calling 877-679-2132.