What are inhalants?

Inhalants refer to substances that when inhaled produce a mind-altering effect. The name is derived from the fact that the PRIMARY and usually only way these substances are used is inhalation. That means they are ingested by breathing in the fumes. (As a contrast, marijuana can be used this way but it has many other ways to be ingested.) They are rarely used any other way.

Because of the method of ingestion is the common thread between these substances, there is quite a large range of products and therefore describing and categorizing them is a bit difficult. However in general, inhalants are broken down into four different categories:

Volative solvents: these are liquids that vaporize at room temperature. A few examples are: paint thinners, nail polish remover, shoe polish, gasoline, glues and felt tip markers. (You should NOT smell markers… we are about to tell you why in the next sub-posts.)

Aerosols: These products are sprayed out of cans, like hairspray, spray paints and spray starch (yup, hard to describe any of these without the word spray!). 

Gases: This category contains gases that are often used in a medical setting, like “laughing gas” that you may breathe in at the dentist to help relax you. Chloroform is another example used in medical settings. Other examples are the gases in butane lighters or propane tanks. However, the most abused household gas is nitrous oxide, which is the gas used in whip cream cans to propel the cream out of the can in a whipped form.

Nitrates: these are a special class of inhalants as they work to dilate blood vessels and relax muscles, whereas the previous three categories create their effects by working on the central nervous system (this means your brain and spinal cord). Nitrates are not easily obtained but the slang term for those that are abused are “poppers” and “snappers.” Products containing nitrates have been banned by the consumer product safety commission. 

Nitrates are not commonly found but unfortunately, many of the other inhalants are. In fact, many are products that people use within their homes. And that’s partially why inhalants are so dangerous—they aren’t illegal or you don’t need a prescription to obtain them like other drugs. When used as directed, these products help people BUT, if inhaled these common and medically used substances are very dangerous! This is why knowing the dangers is critical…

Post Question:

A lot of these inhalants are easy to obtain yet very dangerous, so how do you think it’s best to warn people of the dangers?

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