Inhalants Withdrawal and Detox

Inhalant abuse is known by many other names, such as bagging, sniffing, solvent abuse and more.
It involves the practice of deliberately inhaling a volatile substance in order to bring about an altered mental state. The risk of becoming physically dependent on an inhalant is low, but psychological dependence can develop quickly.

You might encounter withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop using inhalants (when looking to overcome an inhalant addiction for example). Also, long-term abuse of inhalants can result in severe and irreversible damage.

Inhalant Withdrawal: What You Should Know

Inhalants produce an altered mental state by depressing the central nervous system. This suppresses some of your physiological functions as well. When you have a psychological dependence on inhalants (also known as an inhalant addiction), your body gets used to the experience it has while you’re under the influence. Trying to stop the use of an inhalant causes the previously suppressed functions to become overactive. This results in symptoms that are referred to as inhalant withdrawal symptoms.

The symptoms experienced include:

  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Sweating
  • Hand tremors
  • Hallucinations and irritability
  • Anxiety, depression and psychosis
  • Intense craving for inhalants
  • Seizures

Inhalant withdrawal symptoms might seem mild when compared to other substances of abuse, but the recovery process is no easier. As with other substances of abuse, a longer duration of inhalant usage can result in the more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and psychosis.

Working through an inhalant addiction is not easy. In some cases, you might need to receive support for your bodily functions, including its neurological systems, renal and hepatic systems and cardiac and respiratory systems. This may even involve the use of artificial ventilation, as well as many other medical interventions.

 Why Does Someone Go Through Withdrawal After Quitting Inhalants?

Although a specific mechanism of inhalants has not been identified, the majority act by depressing the central nervous system. Their CNS effects trigger a rapid onset of action that lasts for a short period of time. However, they also have lasting medical effects on many organs in the body. Their quick action also results in the speedy development of inhalant dependence.

When you rapidly discontinue the use of inhalants, the previously depressed CNS goes into overdrive, producing many physiological symptoms that cause discomfort at varying levels. Other withdrawal symptoms of inhalant discontinuation are psychological in nature and can easily trigger a relapse in even the most determined of quitters.

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Duration of Inhalants Withdrawal Period

The inhalants withdrawal period varies from one person to the next, in the same way, that the symptoms experienced by people vary. You will generally start to experience inhalant withdrawal symptoms from about 24-48 hours after your last inhalant use. The initial symptoms that manifest are physical in nature and the worst is usually over in one week.  For some, the physical effects might last a bit longer.

However, psychological symptoms – such as depression from being unable to use, or intense craving for an inhalant ‘high’ – can persist for a significantly longer period. Some people have reported experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms months after they stopped using inhalants. This means that the period of inhalant withdrawal could be anything from a few days to months.

What is the Cause of The Inhalants Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms occur due to a rebound effect. Inhalants are depressant in nature, regardless of any other actions they perform. Stopping the use of inhalants can be likened to taking a weight off the previously depressed brain and CNS. These then react by producing a surge of chemicals and activities that manifest as withdrawal symptoms.

The exact symptoms experienced vary from one person to the next. Some experience more physical symptoms than emotional, while the reverse is the case in others. The inhalant substance used also affects the type of withdrawal symptoms that manifest.

The withdrawal process can be taxing, both mentally and physically for you. The best way to adequately manage your withdrawal symptoms is by seeking help from a centre that is properly equipped to manage these symptoms. You will require medical professionals on standby to supervise the detox period.

How Long Does It Take Before Inhalant Withdrawal Starts?

Most users of inhalants describe withdrawal symptoms that begin soon after the last dose of an inhalant. Usually, this occurs within 24-48 hours after ceasing usage of an inhalant.

Inhalant Withdrawal Timeline

A simplified timeline of inhalant withdrawal symptoms can be presented as follows:

  • 24-48 hours: Physical symptoms such as tremors, sweating, nausea and vomiting, psychosis and hallucinations may be experienced. Additionally, you might also experience psychological symptoms such as cravings, anxiety, insomnia and irritability.
  • 3-7 days: The physical symptoms fade away, but the psychological ones might become stronger.
  • After 7 days: While most symptoms fade until they are non-existent, the depression and cravings might persist for up to two months after the last use. During this period, you need all the support you can get to successfully kick the habit.

Inhalant Cravings Timeline

The craving for more inhalants is a symptom of psychological dependence. The cravings usually start soon after the last dose of an inhalant (24-48 hours, depending on the frequency and duration for which you have been using). The cravings get stronger in the days that follow (between the third and seventh day). It may persist for months after your last usage but generally gets weaker as time goes by.

Treating Inhalant withdrawal symptoms

As mentioned previously, stopping the abuse of inhalants will cause you to experience unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms, which have the potential to cause damage. The withdrawal period can be complicated and as such requires treatment to overcome it safely.

Detoxification from inhalant usage involves round-the-clock medical supervision, medications to alleviate the symptoms and discomfort of the withdrawal process, as well as the required support to equip you with coping skills that will prevent relapse.

 Inhalant withdrawal facts

  • An inhalant addiction can develop quickly and withdrawal symptoms can be experienced even if you’ve been addicted to an inhalant only for a short period.
  • Inhalant withdrawal symptoms are either physical or emotional.
  • The physical symptoms of inhalant withdrawal resolve soon after you stop using them.
  • The physical symptoms of inhalant withdrawal can be dangerous in themselves and require constant medical supervision to keep you safe.
  • The emotional or psychological withdrawal symptoms develop soon after the physical inhalant withdrawal symptoms and can persist for months.
  • The best way to deal with inhalant withdrawal symptoms is to make use of a centre that can provide adequate medical and psychological support to help you detox safely.
  • You will need continuing support long after the inhalant withdrawal symptoms have faded.
  • There is no safe level of inhalant use. A single use can lead to grave consequences.
  • The withdrawal process can be taxing, both physically and mentally. Don’t try to kick the habit all by yourself. Get help from professionals.
  • Due to the potential for inhalants to cause serious damage to organs in the body, inhalant use is not tapered off. You must quit ‘cold turkey’ as soon as you get on to a programme.
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Treatment for Inhalants: where to start

The first step in your treatment for inhalant use is your decision to kick the habit. When you’ve made this decision, you have to understand that due to the danger inhalant usage poses, the only way to go is to completely stop, with no tapering. Treatment for inhalant addiction should be carried out under medical supervision so that you can be monitored for adverse withdrawal effects and get the required treatment, therapy and support.

To get treatment for your inhalant addiction, you can:

  • Speak with your GP, who will point you in the right direction.
  • Pay a visit to your local drug treatment centre. The Frank websitecan find one nearest to you.

The most important step is recognising that you have an addiction and knowing the damage it can do to your health. After that, taking steps towards getting professional help to kick the habit will make your attempt successful.

What is Inhalant Detox Treatment?

Inhalant detox treatment is the first step in becoming drug-free. The aim of the detox period is to make sure you are free of the inhalant, as well as eliminate any toxins in your body that come from using the inhalant. It can be an uncomfortable period for you but is a necessary first step to being inhalant-free.

During the detox period, you’ll most likely be removed from the environment where you used inhalants. You’ll also be under constant supervision with support provided where necessary to alleviate the discomfort of the withdrawal symptoms you might be experiencing.

A structured detox programme provides everything you need to prevent you from relapsing. It also provides a safety net in case you experience some of the more dangerous withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures. Detoxing in the right environment also greatly reduces the chances of relapse.

Medically Assisted Inhalant Detox

Medically assisted inhalant detox takes place in a medically supervised, controlled environment. While there are currently no FDA approved drugs for the treatment of inhalant addiction, medical assistance is required for a physical examination to access the degree of damage to your organs from inhalant abuse.

In addition, the withdrawal symptoms you might experience during the detox period can sometimes be dangerous and life-threatening. Symptoms of seizures, vomiting, fits, and even suicidal ideation. A medically assisted inhalant detox programme will provide you with medications that will keep you safe, as well as make the detox period less uncomfortable.

Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to affect your day to day life. The risk of life-threatening symptoms should be enough to convince you not to try to detox at home by yourself. Get professional help for you or a loved one.

Inhalant detox: what to expect

The high from inhalants is usually short-lived and inhalant users often find themselves using it more frequently and in higher doses. Withdrawal symptoms occur soon after the previous usage (within 24-48 hours). During the detox period, you can expect to experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Severe headaches
  • Intense inhalant cravings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Inability to pay attention
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures, tremors, shakes and fits.

On the bright side, many of these symptoms can be treated, especially in a medically supervised detox programme. The strategy is to use short-acting, non-narcotic and non-addictive drugs to tackle any symptoms you might experience.

Some of the drugs that might be used include:

  • For severe nausea and vomiting, Zofran or other anti-emetics may be used.
  • Vistaril or BuSpar might be used to treat anxiety.
  • Beta-blockers are used to manage the tremors.
  • Anti-convulsants such as Tegretol, Depakote or Neurontin are used in the event of a seizure.

Some detox programmes aim to be drug-free and will only administer drugs when there is a life-threatening withdrawal symptom.

How to detox from Inhalants at home

If you decide to detox at home, you need to understand that there are risks involved. The harmful withdrawal symptoms can pose dangers to your health. In addition, being at home places you in an environment where you can easily relapse in order to rid yourself of the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxing at an inhalant detox facility provides both safety and efficacy for you. If you still choose to detox at home, then the following tips will help:

  • Talk to someone: it could be anybody you trust. Let them know about your addiction and attempt to detox. They can still provide you with the necessary support and call emergency services if you start to experience the more dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
  • Clear your home of any substance that you can inhale. Make sure you dispose of it in a place that is a distance from your home to reduce the temptation to go back and get it. You can ask a friend or family member to help you dispose of it, so you won’t know where to search for it.
  • Keep your mind preoccupied. Distract yourself with a lot of tasks and do more every time you start to think about using inhalants.
  • Try counselling. Whether a group, one-on-one or both, any kind of counselling will help. Also, try to enrol on to a 12-step programme.

Ultimately, getting into a detox programme is still the best option – especially if you have a long usage history. Trying to detox by yourself at home is taking a serious risk.

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Dangers of Detoxing at home

Inhalants are always readily available, perfectly legal to own and as such, you might be assuming that it’s easy to quit an inhalant addiction without seeking professional help or assistance.  You need to consider what it means if your attempt at detoxing fails (which is much more likely to happen if you choose to detox at home). Trying to detox at home can lead to the following:

  • Higher likelihood that you will relapse without the structure, supervision and support that you will get at a detox facility.
  • Your relapse could result in an overdose.
  • The withdrawal symptoms themselves could be harmful and require medication to resolve.
  • You could end up with mental health problems if you don’t get the right kind of support during your attempt to detox at home.

It is better and safer to detox at a facility that can give you access to experts, health professionals, counsellors and provide the right supportive environment for you to successfully detox.

How long does Inhalant detox take?

The detox process varies based on the individual, the duration of use, and the doses used. Inhalants are stored in the body’s fatty tissue and as a result, detoxing takes a longer period than the average detox period related to alcohol and some other drugs. The acute phase of the detox period (in which withdrawal symptoms manifest) starts within 24-48 hours and could last weeks before being resolved.

Other symptoms such as memory loss, problems focusing, and other post-acute symptoms are not usually resolved during detox but can be treated on an outpatient basis, without needing intensive care.

Inhalant Detox Timeline/Stages

A typical inhalant detox timeline looks like this:

  • 24-48 hours: You will begin to experience physical withdrawal symptoms. This includes tremors, sweating, nausea and vomiting – and in severe cases, seizures. The physiological symptoms also begin to manifest with intense cravings for inhalants, anxiety, irritability and insomnia.
  • After 48 hours: The physical withdrawal symptoms begin to resolve and become more bearable. The physiological symptoms such as the cravings, anxiety and depression, remain strong for another five to seven days.
  • After seven days, most of the symptoms will have faded to a degree where they can be easily ignored. The cravings and depression, however, take a bit longer to reach this stage. It takes as long as eight weeks in some people.

Why Detox is a Must to Cure Inhalant Addiction

In the treatment of inhalant addiction, detoxing is a necessary first step. The toxins which have accumulated in your body due to the use of inhalants have to be expunged. It also helps clear the brain and body from the CNS depressant effect of inhalant usage.

Due to the dangers of inhalant usage and the risk of ‘sudden sniffing death’ every time you use an inhalant, there is no tapering involved. Detox must begin with you quitting ‘cold turkey’. This is also the first step towards facing the realities of life without any numbing feelings or ‘highness’ clouding your judgement.

Inhalant Addiction: Care Programmes and Treatment Facilities

If you or someone you know has an inhalant addiction and dependency, seeking treatment should be a top priority. The potential for an inhalant to cause severe and permanent damage to the system and the risk of death from usage dictates that you should take urgent action to rid yourself of addiction. An inhalant addiction treatment programme focuses on teaching you to live a drug-free life.

The treatment facility provides you with the required support during the detox period, as well as ongoing therapy and support afterwards. You will become acquainted with rehabilitation programmes that will help get to the root of your addiction. You’ll get a chance to explore and understand the reason you wanted to get ‘high’, learn specific skills to cope with your inhalant cravings and understand the value of a life free of drug abuse and inhalant addiction.

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Your inhalant treatment options include

  • Inpatient care (which could involve different programmes)
  • Residential rehab programmes
  • Therapeutic boarding schools
  • Outpatient care, which usually makes use of group counselling, individual counselling or family counselling
  • 12-step programmes
  • Behavioural therapies

Coming to Terms with Your Inhalants Addiction

Mostly, when you have an inhalant problem, you might find it difficult to admit that you have an addiction or that you’re no longer in control of using an inhalant. You might feel like accepting that the inhalant controls you is equal to accepting defeat. The truth is, the more you lie to yourself and your loved ones, the more trapped you are in addiction.

Acknowledging that you do have a problem with inhalant abuse is the first step towards recovery. This acceptance that your sniffing is out of control and you need help with it opens the door to recovery and gives you the courage you need to seek help from family, loved ones and a professional.

Taking back control of your life doesn’t begin and end with accepting that somewhere along the line you have become an addict. You need to take definitive steps towards becoming and remaining drug-free. You need to stop destructive habits, enrol in an effective treatment programme and enlist the help of your family and friends as you learn to kick the habit.

An inhalant addiction can deceive you into thinking you are alone, and you’ll find that you are trapped in isolation, secrecy and denial, but the sooner you seek help, the better. Don’t let your inhalant addiction take over your life. Talk to a professional, a friend or loved one today.

Inhalant rehabilitation programme

A rehabilitation programme that focuses on helping people with inhalant addiction is essential to your successful recovery. Inhalant usage was once thought to be more common in adolescents and teenagers, but data from a recent survey showed that 54% of people who were in rehab for inhalant abuse were older than 18 years.

Some rehabilitation programmes will offer you the choice of inpatient or outpatient treatment. The inpatient programme offers several advantages over the outpatient option, such as 24-hour supervision and support – as well as the inability to get inhalants – significantly reducing the chance of a relapse.

An inpatient rehabilitation centre also provides intensive care and therapy that ensures you are firmly set on the road to recovery. If your loved one with an inhalant problem is a child, it is really important that they receive inpatient treatment.

An addiction can be isolating. The risks associated with your inhalants usage are real and can manifest at any time. Sudden sniffing death is not predictable and every time you use, you risk this and other severe and irreversible damage to your brain and CNS.

The good news is that help is available for your inhalant addiction.


Which treatments work for Inhalant addiction?

There are several treatment approaches to inhalant addiction. An effective treatment could include one or more of the following:

  • Therapy – which could be individual, group or family therapy
  • Learning relapse -prevention techniques and strategies
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • 12-step programmes
  • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy
  • Recreation therapy
  • Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Where will I have my treatment?

The choice is ultimately yours. You can choose an inpatient or outpatient treatment programme or even a drug rehabilitation centre that is in a location far from you. The most important thing is that you choose a rehabilitation programme that has experience dealing with inhalant addiction.

Does treatment for Inhalant addiction work?

Recovering from an addiction is an ongoing lifetime process and seeking treatment is an important first step towards kicking your addiction into touch. Treatment not only places you on the path to recovery but also gives you the skills to cope with cravings and temptations in the future. Long-term recovery is achieved by taking advantage of the aftercare programmes available. This involves therapy, 12-step programmes and so on.

What are the other Popular Slang or Street Names for Inhalants?

Popular slang names for the use of inhalants are sniffing, air blast, bagging, bang, bullet bolt, high ball, huffing and glading.

How Long Does Detox Last?

Inhalant detox typically takes weeks. The physical withdrawal symptoms usually resolve in a few days, while psychological withdrawal symptoms take longer to resolve. Some people report cravings up to eight weeks after the last dose. Some of the damage caused by long-term inhalant usage is irreversible, while other issues are resolved during follow-up care in rehabilitation programmes.

What Kind of Medication Will I need for Inhalant Addiction Treatment?

There is no medication used to treat inhalant addiction according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Treatment consists mostly of round-the-clock supervision and watchful, supportive care. In some cases, medications can be used to counter specific manifestations of withdrawal symptoms that could be harmful.

Is Inhalant Addiction Easy to Beat?

The detox period of an inhalant addiction is longer than that of most drugs, due to the fact they are stored in fatty tissues. The withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological in nature and could take weeks to resolve. Fighting an inhalant addiction is not easy, but with the right support and resources, you can definitely beat yours.

What Else Can I Do to Succeed in Inhalant Recovery?

After you’ve checked into a rehabilitation programme, you can still take certain steps to make your recovery a success. They are:

  • Prioritise your recovery. Let the main thing on your mind be recovery. Take full advantage of the treatments offered to you – therapies, counselling, coping skills and more – with the mindset of using them to make your recovery a success.
  • Communicate your feelings. Speaking out can help you identify your feelings and help those around you know how best to help you. Don’t bottle up your feelings, but speak out.
  • Avoid the environment and friends with which you used inhalants. These are situations that could trigger a relapse.
  • Be productive; go to school or work. This could keep you preoccupied enough to distract you from any lingering cravings.

Other help for Inhalant addiction

Natural (holistic) therapies can be useful when used as an adjunct in the treatment of inhalant addiction. Natural therapies involve the use of meditation, relaxation and self-awareness techniques to fight withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. They should not be used as a stand-alone treatment.

You can also speak to your GP, who can offer help or refer you to an appropriate centre. If you’d rather not, then you can use the Frank website to find the local drug treatment centre nearest to you.

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