Inhalants are breathable chemical vapours that produce mind-altering effects. Although people are exposed to volatile solvents and inhalants in the home and workplace, many do not think of inhalants as drugs because most of them were never meant to be used in that way. The most commonly abused inhalants are glue, petrol, cleaning fluids and nail polish remover. These substances are both psychologically and physically addictive.

Young people are likely to abuse inhalants, in part because they are readily available and cheap. Sometimes children misuse inhalant products that are found at home. For this reason parents should see that these substances are monitored closely so that this does not occur.

Sniffing seems to be most common among street children and children experiencing serious family problems.

Young sniffers are often curious and want to get “drunk” or “high” together. Many stop after they have experimented. If they continue sniffing substances it may mean that they feel the need to escape from problems in their lives.

Sniffing solvents is often associated with problematic behaviour e.g. shoplifting, damage to property and theft.

How is an Inhalant used?

The inhalant is spread on a cloth and placed over the mouth and nose, or the cloth may be placed in a paper bag and held tightly to the face and then breathed in.

Symptoms of Inhalant use:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Numbness
  • Coughing
  • Irritation to the nose and eyes
  • Vomiting (Users have been known to choke on the own vomit)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Red face after use and then pale complexion

What are the effects of Inhalants?

  • Immediate high lasts 15-45 minutes
  • Euphoria (extreme happiness)
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness
  • Freedom from inhibition – the user will become adventurous and not think about the reasoning behind things.
  • Amnesia (loss of memory)

What are the long-term effects?

  • Death due to asphyxiation/suffocation (battling to breathe) if used in a closed area or if too much is inhaled at one time
  • Damage to voice
  • Damage to heart, kidneys, liver and lungs
  • Damage to nervous system
  • Brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen
  • Severe depression which could lead to suicide

What happens when you STOP using?

  • Insomnia – problems sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness