Glue Sniffing & Inhalant Abuse

What do you know about glue sniffing and inhalant abuse? I recently received a message from someone asking if I could post some information on inhalant abuse.

 Before I received this message, it hadn’t really crossed my mind to write anything about this topic. I know that it’s incredibly dangerous and prevalent, but for whatever reason, it’s not something that crosses my mind very often. I think this is representative of our society as a whole. Addiction in general is not something that people like to talk about, but it seems to me that some addictions are somehow more taboo than others. It’s not because it isn’t common – it is. In 2010, a national drug survey reported that almost 800,000 people used inhalants for the first time. Even scarier, about 70% of these people were under the age of 18.

What is Inhalant Abuse?

An inhalant is any kind of chemical/substance that people inhale in order to feel a rush. Examples of inhalants are paint thinners, paint removers, gas, glue, and markers. People often inhale spray paint and shoe shining spray as well. Just about anything can be inhaled. The effects of them vary, but the goal is to get high, regardless of the substance.

Glue sniffing is probably the one we hear about most, but there are many many more inhalants that are abused. Nitrous oxide is also considered an inhalant. Nitrous oxide is often used at a dentist’s office to relax the patient. Inhalants are mind-altering substances that activate the brain’s reward/pleasure center, just like any other drug someone might ingest.

Children around the age of 14 are the most common users of inhalants; these are chemicals that children can obtain legally from just about anywhere. Many children don’t even need to buy them because they find these chemicals in their homes.


Huffing is one of the ways that inhalants are abused. This involves soaking a towel in the chemical and putting it in your mouth. The idea is that every time the person breathes in, they will be breathing in the chemical and getting high. Inhaling in any form is dangerous, but huffing is particularly dangerous and has a much higher risk of asphyxiation.

Side Effects Of Inhalants

Glue sniffing, huffing paint, and any kind of inhalant abuse can have very serious side effects. Inhalants cause impaired function and judgment, and can cause nausea. Other side effects of glue sniffing and other inhalants are very similar to the effects of any other drug. The user may feel dizzy, or get incredibly sleepy. They may slur their speech, and have difficulty with coordination. Glue sniffing and huffing other inhalants can cause increased heart rate and seizures. Another very dangerous side effects of inhalant abuse is the risk of asphyxiation and losing consciousness. It is possible for someone to lose consciousness the first time they try inhalants. It is very possible for someone to die from inhaling these dangerous chemicals, and it is also possible that they can induce a coma.

What can you do?

One of the most important things to do is to educate people about inhalant abuse. Many people don’t even know that it exists, and some of these people are parents who leave these dangerous chemicals around the house. Children have such easy access to these chemicals, and parents need to be more conscientious about this. Most parents wouldn’t leave alcohol or heroin or cocaine lying around the house, and inhalants aren’t that different. If you or someone you know has a problem with huffing or sniffing glue or anything else, there’s always help available. Some people don’t see inhalants as a real addiction or a real drug, but if you need help and are addicted to inhalants, rehab is always an option.

Inhalant abuse is very serious, and very dangerous. It is much more common than a lot of people think, and it’s important to keep talking about it. If you have friends who have kids, talk to them and make sure they know how dangerous these chemicals can be. Just because something is okay to use around the house doesn’t mean it is safe.


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