Inhalants are volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect.
Inhalants include a broad range of chemicals found in hundreds of different products that may have different pharmacological effects. There are four general categories of inhalants:
Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature and are found in products such as paint thinners/removers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, correction fluids, and felt-tip marker fluids.
Aerosols are sprays that contain propellants and solvents and include spray paints, deodorant and hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays for cooking, and fabric protector sprays.
Gases used as inhalants include medical anesthetics (ether, chloroform, and nitrous oxide) as well as gases used in household or commercial products (butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers, and refrigerants).
Nitrites include cyclohexyl nitrite, isoamyl (amyl) nitrite, and isobutyl (butyl) nitrite, and are commonly known as “poppers” or “snappers.”
Most inhalants act directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to produce psychoactive, or mind-altering, effects. They have short-term effects similar to anesthetics, which slow the body’s functions. Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication with initial excitation, then drowsiness, disinhibition, lightheadedness, and agitation. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce anesthesia, a loss of sensation, and even loss of consciousness.
Anxiety, hallucinations, rapid pulse, seizures and tremors are all possible withdrawal symptoms from inhalants.
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