Are Inhalants Addictive?

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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 Addiction

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:

  1. Using more of the inhalant, or for longer periods than intended.
  2. A continuous but unsuccessful desire to reduce or control inhalant use.
  3. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the effects of inhalants.
  4. Strong cravings or urges to use inhalants.
  5. Regular use of inhalants leading to not meeting responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  6. Continuing to use inhalants even though they cause or worsen social or relationship problems.
  7. Quitting or cutting back on important social, work, or fun activities due to inhalant use.
  8. Using inhalants in dangerous situations.
  9. Keep using inhalants despite knowing they are causing or aggravating physical or mental health issues.
  10. 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.

Low cost

Compared to many other drugs, inhalants are relatively inexpensive, making them a more accessible option for individuals with financial constraints.

Immediate effects

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.

Psychological escape

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.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn