Inhalant Symptoms and Warning Signs

Inhalants are commonly abused by teens and young children, creating a high lethal risk for young children in the home. Keeping these chemicals away from your children and understanding the risks may very well save a life.

Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

Inhalant abuse can be easier to identify than other drugs because many of these inhalants leave chemical smells or stains on the individual. They may leave behind various paint cans or aerosol containers or may leave behind rags with chemicals or bags infused with chemicals.

What does inhalant abuse look like? Oftentimes inhalants will make a person seem like they are drunk and may become nauseous and start vomiting. You will know if they are abusing inhalants because their pupils will be extremely dilated. More severe symptoms include damage to the blood, kidneys and liver, heart, and bone marrow. Having these hazardous chemicals inhaled into the lungs can cause your heart to stop and make you suffocate.

You will also be able to identify inhalant abuse by the individuals:

  • Sleep problems
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of interest in hobbies
  • Secretive behavior
  • Acting physically intoxicated

Identifying inhalant abuse may lead to the individual becoming more agitated or angry. You should try to talk to them about treatment when they are sober and if they don’t accept you will want to stage an intervention.


Are Inhalants Addictive?

Yes, inhalants are highly addictive due to their depressant properties on the nervous system. It is not advisable to use inhalants ever, because they are addictive and deadly. Repeated use of inhalants can bring on harsh withdrawal symptoms, causing the individual to want to continue their use so they won’t get sick. This creates an increased tolerance making the individual need more and more to achieve the same high without getting sick from withdrawal.

The Dangers of Inhalants

There are 6 recorded ways that people die form using inhalants.

  • Suffocation from inhaling fumes with a plastic bag over their head
  • Breathing stops because lungs are filled with toxic chemicals
  • Choking on their own vomit due to unconsciousness
  • Injury leading to death from reckless behavior while high
  • Cardiac arrest that leads to death
  • Depression from inhalant addiction may cause suicide

You may not be able to lock up every single chemical in your home, but what you can do to protect your children and teens is to talk to them about the damage these chemicals can do to the brain and body. Keeping children aware of these dangers increases the likelihood that they will avoid inhalants at all costs.

Recognizing Inhalant Abuse Symptoms

How can we recognize inhalant abuse? There are some tell tale signs of abuse that you should be aware of. Follow the list below for recognizing inhalant abuse symptoms.

Inhalant Abuse Symptoms

  • Eye irritation
  • Chemical smells on the individual
  • Rags or cloths with a chemical smell on them
  • Paint near a person’s mouth or nose
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Lack of concentration
  • Eczema on face
  • Sores on the face near nose and mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Depression
  • Acting out in school/ grades diminishing
  • Sense of not caring about anything
  • Poor appetite, may not be eating
  • Behavior changes
  • Empty aerosol or chemical bottles around
  • Missing chemical bottles
  • Finding chemicals in strange places around the home

If your child is hiding an inhalant abuse, it is crucial to get them help immediately. Inhalants can kill your child and if you are not aware of the risks of using inhalants you may lose them. 

Addiction Treatment for Inhalants

Treatment for inhalant abuse is similar to alcohol addiction treatment. This process includes detox from inhalant use, rehab programs, therapies, and more. One of the most effective treatments for inhalant abuse is a therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.

This method of therapy helps you recognize and understand your addiction and also helps you get to the root cause of your addiction such as depression, trauma, or abuse going on in the home. When attending this type of therapy, motivational incentives are used to help you gain confidence and learn healthy coping skills and reward systems. 

Withdrawal from Inhalants, Treatment, and Next Steps

When inhalant dependency and addiction occurs, withdrawal often comes as a reminder that your body is addicted to these chemicals and needs more to function. Withdrawal can make you feel very uncomfortable and angry, causing you to want to use more. 

Signs of inhalant withdrawal look like:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent mood swings 
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting and nauseousness
  • Increased sweating 

Medical assisted detox is your first step towards treatment for your inhalant addiction and during detox you will be given medications to help ease the discomfort of detox and withdrawal symptoms that will occur over the next couple of weeks. After detox, it will be time to discuss what the best treatment program is for you and come up with a long-term treatment plan. 

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