A woman suffers from inhalant abuse and addiction

Inhalant abuse (also known as huffing) refers to the act of deliberately inhaling common household chemicals in order to achieve a high. Inhalant abuse can be incredibly dangerous, and even fatal with only a single use.

While the national spotlight currently shines on the Opioid Epidemic, a recent survey concluded that 13.1% of 8th-graders admitted abusing inhalants. (1)

Here we break down what every parent should know about the dangerous trend of inhalant abuse among youth.

What types of chemicals are inhaled?

The substances abused as inhalants are volatile substances, meaning that they vaporize at A woman sniffs hairspray to get highroom temperature and thus can be exposed. The variety of volatile household items used varies greatly.

This can include lighter fluid, spray paints, body sprays, whipped cream dispensers, duster, glues, and cleaning goods. While the inhalants used are typically random, specific substances are sometimes sought out.

The most common example of this is nitrous oxide, commonly referred to as laughing gas. (2)

How are inhalants abused?

Several different methods are utilized in order to abuse inhalants. First, some simply inhale the fumes directly from the containers in which they are packaged. Another method, known as “bagging”, involves spraying in a paper or plastic bag to inhale from.

The term “huffing” commonly refers to soaking a rag and covering the mouth and nose with it. Finally, some inhalants (particularly nitrous oxide) utilize balloons as the means of delivery. (3)

What are the effects of inhalant abuse?

Inhalant abuse causes a quick, euphoric high to occur in the user. The effects mimic that of alcohol, including slurred speech, delirium, confusion, and lightheadedness. These effects come on almost instantly after the user has inhaled the chemical vapors.

Due to the short nature of these effects, users will typically use the inhalants repeatedly to keep the high going. (4)

What are the dangers of inhalant abuse?

Inhalant abuse has several short-term and long-term health effects that can greatly vary depending on the individual and the chemical used. Short-term effects typically include headaches, confusion, chemical burn in the mouth and lungs, dizziness, drowsiness, slurred speech, and muscle pain.

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Long-term effects can include a mild withdrawal syndrome, compulsion to keep using inhalants, and possibly many unknown detrimental health effects. (5)

Inhalant abuse can cause death from even a single inhaling session. This is known as Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, and usually is the result of the heart beating uncontrollably leading to cardiac death syndrome.

Inhalant abuse can even lead to irreversible effects such as hearing loss, spasms, and brain damage. (6)

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/letter-director
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/inhalants
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/how-are-inhalants-used
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/how-do-inhalants-produce-their-effects
  5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/what-are-short-long-term-effects-inhalant-use
  6. http://www.consumered.org/learn/inhalant-abuse/dangers-effects