Facts about Inhalants:

  • Inhalants include a wide range of products that can include: paint thinners, gasoline, certain types of markers, spray paint, hair spray, some types of glue, correction fluid, aerosol deodorants, whipped cream cans, duster spray for cleaning computer keyboards, room deodorizers, “poppers/whip its”, gases from butane lighters or propane tanks.  In addition, anesthetics that are generally only used in medical settings such as halothane gas, ether, chloroform, and laughing gas/nitrous oxide used during some dental procedures, can be abused as an inhalant drug.
  • “Whip its” are canisters of compressed nitrous oxide tanks that are inhaled.  The gas inhaled can be compared to the gas given at the dentist office for some procedures, also known as “laughing gas”.
  • “Poppers” is a slang term for the chemicals amyl nitrite which is a psychoactive drug that is inhaled.  The term ‘poppers” originated from the way the drugs were designed for use as heart medication.  The amyl nitrite was sold in capsules that were popped open to release the chemical to be used as medication (Hartney, 2017).
  • The effects of the drug “poppers is very brief, but sometimes an intense experience for the user with “a high” that last from a few seconds to several minutes.
  • In order to enhance intoxication, “poppers” are sometimes combined with other drugs. The drug will often provided the user with an initial, but very brief, intense “high” followed by short lived feelings of dizziness, confusion, euphoria, mood changes, and relaxation.These substances are addictive, and can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, when a person attempts to stop using them.

Inhalants are very dangerous:

  • Chronic use inhalants can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage.  In addition, in some cases inhaling these products can cause immediate death (Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome) within minutes of sniffing, or inhaling, the chemicals. This syndrome can occur the very first time, or anytime thereafter.  It could be compared to playing “Russian Roulette” every time these chemicals are inhaled or sniffed.
  • In addition to the risk of sudden death, long term damage to the body can also occur.  For example, damage to the kidneys, heart problems, toxic effects on the liver, and brain damage.
  • Less serious, but not the less unpleasant, side effects can include: sinusitis, wheezing, and breathing difficulties.  Some people may also have severe allergic reactions to the perfumes and other ingredients of certain inhalants.
  • These substances are addictive, and can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, when a person attempts to stop using them.
  • Most people do not understand the risk involved in using these products.  Young people are especially susceptible.

Recognize inhalant abuse and get help:

  • Some common signs to watch for that may indicate a person is abusing inhalants:
  1. Absences from work, school and related events.
  2. Loss of pleasure in normal activities.
  3. Irritability.
  4. Chemical aroma to the breath.
  5. Signs of paint on the face, body, or clothing.


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Hartney, E. (2017). What are poppers?  An often poorly understood inhalant drug.  Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/what-are-poppers-22094 on October 22, 2017.