Our discussions about drug abuse frequently centre around things like alcohol, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. But did you know that there are plenty of legal household products – many of which might be in your home right now – that can easily become addictive if used as inhalants? Believe it. It is true.

Inhalant abuse and addiction is one of the fastest-growing problems in the arena of drug abuse, especially among younger people. Because these substances are cheap, easy to get, and commonly found in the average household, they make very good targets for children looking to get high. Unfortunately, children who survive inhalant abuse often go on to abuse illicit drugs as adults.

Are you concerned that someone in your family is using inhalants? Are you worried that you might be addicted yourself? In either case, you need to know that help is available. We can point you to that help. Addiction Helper offers free counselling, advice and referral services to those in need of inhalant addiction treatment.

Basics of Inhalants

Inhalants encompass a broad variety of substances that can be inhaled in order to produce pleasurable feelings. They can include volatile solvents, nitrates, and gases. Users place their substance of choice in some sort of vehicle that will allow them to inhale the fumes produced by evaporation. Common inhalants include:

  • glue
  • cigarette lighter fluid
  • nail varnish remover
  • hairspray
  • paint products
  • air fresheners
  • household cleaning products.

You can see from this list why inhalants would be so attractive to young children. Users do not need to go to a street dealer or a head shop when they can go directly to the kitchen cupboard where they can find a steady supply of solvents and cleaning solutions.

Parents should be aware that the youngest users (they can be as young as 10 or 12 years old) begin inhalant use with household products like glue and hairspray. They are able to get high without parents knowing because they never have to leave home to get their substances of choice. It is imperative for parents who suspect children are using inhalants to pay close attention and ask a lot of questions.

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Addiction

The signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse can vary between substances due to their differences. For example, one substance might result in persistent nosebleeds and a runny nose while another may produce a persistently sore throat along with mouth and tongue sores. Parents should be on the lookout for any unexplainable physical symptoms as well as gradual changes in behaviour.

The most common signs and symptoms of inhalant addiction are as follows:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Complaints of light-headedness and dizziness
  • Lingering headaches, nausea, and vomiting
  • Persistent mouth sores and sore throat
  • Periods of confusion
  • Frequent hallucinations and delusions
  • Gradual loss of inhibition
  • Unexplainable periods of euphoric moods
  • Periods of drowsiness that can last several hours.

As inhalant addiction progresses, it can have devastating effects on the brain, central nervous system, liver, kidneys, heart, and respiratory system. Long-term use of inhalants can lead to:

  • permanent hearing loss
  • peripheral neuropathy (loss of motor control)
  • brain and central nervous system damage
  • bone marrow loss
  • liver and kidney damage
  • blood oxygen depletion leading to hypoxia.

To say that inhalant use is dangerous is to state the obvious. Even in the case of a single incident, the inhalant user can die from chemical asphyxiation. Considering the fact that young children are more prone to inhalant addiction than their older counterparts are, and because they don’t understand medical problems like asphyxiation, the use of inhalants is especially dangerous for them. Young children do not know enough to stop inhaling before serious injury or death results.

Treatment for Inhalant Addiction

Treatment for inhalants is different from one substance to the next. This is why it is important that the inhalant user or a family member get in touch with an organisation like ours for further advice. Attempting to discontinue inhalant use without supervision can be dangerous for a person who is already addicted as withdrawal symptoms can present medical emergencies in some cases.

Some inhalant addictions require detox as a first step toward getting well. Detox should always be medically supervised and carried out in a clinic staffed by trained experts who know how to handle the situation. There are times when prescription medications may be used to control withdrawal symptoms, but providers must be careful not to substitute one addiction with another by way of prescriptions.

After detox – or in the event that it is not necessary – psychotherapeutic treatments are used to address the psychological and emotional aspects of inhalant addiction. There are many different kinds of psychotherapeutic treatments that therapists can choose from. One of the most commonly used therapies is something known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a therapy that was originally developed to help children cope with certain kinds of mental illnesses. However, it has proven very useful in the arena of addiction treatment. CBT establishes a set of goals that the therapist and patient work through together until completed. Once those goals are completed, the therapy is concluded. CBT can be finished in 12 to 15 sessions in most cases. Medication may be used in follow-up for patients suffering from seizures or depression/anxiety.

The idea behind psychotherapy is to uncover the root causes of addictive behaviour so they can be corrected. Patients learn coping skills and avoidance strategies to prevent future relapse. They also participate in support group activities where they receive additional counselling as well as support and accountability to other members of the group.

Addiction Helper works with treatment providers all over the UK. If you or someone you are concerned about is suffering from inhalant abuse or addiction, the time to get treatment is now. You can get well with the right kind of care and support.