Inhalant Detox and Withdrawal

Addiction to substances does not discriminate by gender, race, status, or age. People of all ages can become addicted to substances. Children and teens are not exempt from trying and misusing substances to see how they feel. Other factors can compel a person to try substance use, such as stress, anxiety, and depression. A child’s first foray into substance misuse may be to try sniffing glue, a cleaning agent, correction fluids, butane lighter fluid, and other fluids and sprays like them.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a published list of inhalants that individuals might use to get a quick “buzz.” Among them is amyl nitrate, a prescription solution that relieves the pain from angina attacks. Long ago, this was the substance of choice used by people in disco dance halls to enhance the merriness of the moment.

Misusing inhalants regularly can produce withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using them. The most obvious sign when detoxing from inhalants is mood swings.

Read on to learn about what inhalant detox and withdrawal entails, how long it could last, and what inhalant addiction treatment involves.

Inhalants: What Are They?

Inhalants can be some of the easiest to obtain substances to misuse or abuse, and many types of them are commonly used in homes and schools. Therefore, it is critical to know what they are.

Inhalants are categorized as substances that can be inhaled without the use of heat or a flame. There are four primary types of inhalants, per NIDA:

Volatile solvents: These are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. They are most commonly found in dry-cleaning fluids, paint thinners and removers, degreasers, correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluids, glues, gasoline, and electronic contact cleaners (e.g., WD-40).

Gases: These include gases from household or commercial products, like butane, propane, or medical anesthetic gases, such as ether, nitrous oxide, chloroform, and cooling system fluids.

Aerosols: These contain solvents and propellants and are commonly used. Examples are hairsprays, spray paints, deodorant sprays, whipped cream dispensers, fabric protector sprays, and vegetable oil sprays.

Nitrates – Nitrates are mostly used as a sexual enhancer. Nitrates misused or abused include amyl, butyl, and cyclohexyl nitrites. They are usually referred to as “poppers.” When these inhalants are bought from dealers, they are usually in small brown bottles and labeled as “room odorizer,” “video head cleaner,” “leather cleaner “or” liquid aroma.”

How Are Inhalants Misused?

Short-term effects from misusing them cause disinhibition, mild euphoria, lightheadedness, confusion, slurred speech, and headaches.

Inhalants can be misused in different ways. They are most often breathed in through the nose or mouth by:

  • Snorting or sniffing fumes from containers
  • Spraying the fluid right into the nose or mouth
  • “Bagging,” which is when the substances are sprayed or deposited into a bag, and a person sniffs or inhales the fumes from the bag.
  • “Huffing” is also a way to misuse inhalants. A rag is soaked in the inhalant and stuffed into the mouth.
  • Inhaling the nitrous oxide from a balloon filled with it.

As previously mentioned, the effect of using inhalants is very short, which leads many people to keep misusing the inhalant(s) over several hours. This is a very dangerous thing to do.

Are Inhalants Addictive?

Abusing inhalants can be physically and psychologically addictive. If inhalants are used over a few days, the person misusing them will feel the urge to keep using them for their short-term effects.

There are many visible signs that a person is addicted to inhalants, which to know. Some of them are:

  • Inhalant products are out of place in the home, like spray-paint canisters in a bedroom.
  • Rags, plastic, or paper bags are observed in a teen’s bedroom or bathroom
  • Frequent loss of appetite or nausea
  • Exhaustion
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Drunken-like appearance, slurred speech, disorientation
  • Loss of focus
  • Withdrawal from regular activities
  • Paint, glue, whipped cream, or other substances around the nose or mouth of the individual
  • Recklessness
  • Their doctor diagnoses them with damage or disease of the blood, liver, kidneys, bone marrow, or heart.

Can Using Inhalants be Dangerous?

Yes, using inhalants can be dangerous and even deadly. Using inhalants recreationally can also cause sudden death to heart failure when a person sniffs butane, propane, and other aerosol chemicals, death from asphyxiation, suffocation, convulsions, seizures, and other severe effects.

MedlinePlus shares that when people use inhalants, the chemicals are absorbed by the lungs, and within seconds, the chemicals go to the brain, causing the feeling of intoxication or euphoria. The federal medical website goes on to say that some chemicals can release dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical in the brain. Due to the short time the effects last, people use more of the inhalant to keep the “high” longer-lasting.

The chemicals in the inhalants harm the body in many ways. For instance, inhalant abuse can cause hearing loss, coma, heart problems, loss of urinary and bowel control, violent behavior, and hallucinations. It can also cause permanent nerve issues, like numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, and tremors.

Misusing inhalants can also cause fatalities. The chemicals can cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the rest of the body. This is commonly called sudden sniffing death syndrome.

Suffocation is another inherent danger from abusing inhalants. This occurs when the lungs and brain do not get enough oxygen due to the chemical vapor level being high enough that it replaces oxygen in the blood. Suffocation can also happen when a person puts their head in a plastic bag that contains an inhalant.

Nitrates are also dangerous because they can loosen a person’s inhibitions, which can result in unprotected sex.

Can Sniffing Glue Cause Brain Damage?

Sniffing glue for a long time can cause brain damage. Some solvents (toluene and naphthalene) that are inhaled can cause damage to the myelin sheath, the thin layer covering nerve fibers in the brain and the central nervous system. This type of damage can result in long-term harm to brain functioning and neurological issues, as Healthline reports.

Inhalant Withdrawal Symptoms

Any time a substance is abused, the possibility of experiencing withdrawal symptoms is present. This includes inhalant misuse and abuse.

Some of the noted inhalant withdrawal symptoms include headaches, runny eyes or nose, nausea or vomiting, cravings, fast heartbeat, depression, anxiety, or hallucinations. Other symptoms that could be experienced are:

  • Body pain
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Panic attacks
  • Tremors
  • Psychosis

You may find these and the above-mentioned symptoms very distressing and uncomfortable. However, the symptoms can be treated so that they are more manageable.

What Is the Inhalant Withdrawal Timeline?

How long a person experiences withdrawal symptoms depends on different factors, which include:

  • Your physicality
  • Length of time using inhalants
  • Types of inhalants used, and
  • The last amount of inhalants you used

Usually, the body needs a few days to recover from inhalant misuse before it returns to normal. Most withdrawal symptoms should fade away in a few days. Some people may find they have lingering symptoms related to inhalant withdrawal, such as intense cravings, trouble breathing, and/or a sore throat.

If the individual has been abusing inhalants for a long time, medical detox and addiction therapy would be most beneficial. At The Palm Beach Institute, our services are designed to meet your individual needs, and our staff is committed to providing care that maintains your dignity.

Treatment for Inhalant Withdrawal

Inhalant dependence is a possibility if you regularly abuse them to get high. Dependence is marked by feeling withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped. If you keep abusing inhalants despite the consequences to your health, life, and personal situation, you are addicted to them.

Inhalant withdrawal treatment entails different levels of care, from inpatient programs to outpatient programs. Addiction therapy can help you learn why you started using inhalants, learn new methods of managing stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems, handle inhalant cravings in healthful and positive ways, and understand the medical and psychological harms abusing inhalants do. 

The Palm Beach Institute is a respected substance use treatment center with 50 years of experience helping people become free from drug and alcohol use.

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