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Inhalant use refers to inhaling the fumes of certain industrial products like solvents, glues, aerosol sprays, fuels, paint-thinners, etc., in order to experience altered states of consciousness.

How Inhalants Work

This group includes a large number of different substances, all of which likely have their own ways of affecting the nervous system, though the details of how these various substances work remain unknown. After being inhaled, they all tend to get absorbed very rapidly by the lungs and to reach high levels in the blood system almost immediately. It is thought that perhaps some of them produce their effects by dissolving into the cell membranes of neurons and altering the properties of these neurons and how the brain signals are transmitted.

Inhalant Intoxication

Inhalants can produce effects similar to alcohol, including euphoria, feeling disinhibitted, and a loosening of one's thoughts and judgment. They can also lead to states of apathy, or conversely, to becoming agitated and aggressive. They can also produce confusion and psychosis.

The physical symptoms caused by inhalants include blurred vision, dizziness, unsteadiness, incoordination, slurred speech, lethargy, stupor, unconsciousness, and eventually coma. These substances can cause death from heart arrhythmias, breathing abnormalities, asphyxiation, aspiration of vomitus, or acting in dangerous ways due to loss of judgment and restraint.

With repeated use, inhalants can cause serious damage to the liver, kidneys and brain. Brain atrophy, loss of IQ, dementia and various other neurological disorders can occur.

Inhalant Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms do not always occur after inhalant use, but can include irritability, jitteriness, sleep disturbances, sweating, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, and psychosis.

Treating Inhalant Abuse or Dependence

Treating inhalant use disorders follows the general treatment principles as outlined here. There are no medications that have been shown to be effective for this purpose

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