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Article Summary


Inhalants are simply breathable vapours from chemicals intentionally inhaled because they produce mind-altering effects. Inhalants are usually common household products which contain aerosols, gases and volatile solvents. Inhalants have some common street names namely; poppers, whippets and snappers. People usually consider harmful drugs to be those drugs commonly found in the streets as opposed to being found in garages and cleaning cabinets in the case of inhalants. Inhalants are usually used for the wrong purpose. Most inhalant users inhale chemical vapours or fumes produced by common household produces/substances to get high. What most inhalant users don't know is how dangerous inhalants are.

Reasons why people use inhalants

The main reason why most people use inhalants is because they are cheap and readily available. As mentioned above, inhalants are readily available household products. Inhalants are also used because they are suitable alternatives to mood-altering drugs. Most inhalant users also use them because they can be bought legally. This however doesn't make inhalants safe drugs. Inhalants should be used for the right purposes i.e. painting, cleaning, repairing among other functions they are meant to perform. It is important to note that inhalants can have more serious effects compared to street drugs.

Types of inhalants

There are usually four main types/kinds of inhalants. They include; gases, volatile solvents, nitrites and aerosols. Volatile solvents, aerosols and gases are capable of altering moods thereby creating a high. Nitrites on the other hand are known to create sexual enhancement and stimulation.

1. Volatile solvents: These are liquids which turn into gas form at room temperature. Examples of volatile solvents include paint removers, paint thinners, gasoline, marker solvents/fluids and glues.

2. Gases: Example of rare inhalant gases includes medical gases such as nitrous oxide and ether. Common gase inhalants found in commercial and household products include; butane, propane, refrigerant gases whipped cream dispenser gases e.t.c.

3. Aerosol sprays: Aerosol sprays are among the most common inhalants found in our home. They include; deodorants, spray paint, hairsprays, static cling sprays and vegetable cooking oil sprays.

4. Nitrites: Common nitrites include; amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite and cyclohexyl nitrite. Nitrites are commonly referred to as; snappers or poppers in the street. Nitrites are common in room capsules and deodorizers that release vapours when they are opened.

Inhalants effects

Inhalants are administered in various ways. For instance, inhalants can be sniffed, snorted or sprayed directly into the mouth or nose. Inhalants can also be put into a container or bad and then inhaled. Inhalant vapour can also be poured onto a rag and then inhaled. Inhalants such as nitrous oxide can be inhaled from balloons.

Because inhalants cause a high that doesn't last for long, most people have a tendency to use inhalants excessively over a prolonged time period in order to maintain the effects. This results in an increase in the chemicals that enter the body and cause serious damage.

Inhalants have very many dangerous/serious effects on the body. Once vapour from inhalants has entered the body, it is absorbed by organs such as the brain and parts of the nervous system. All inhalants apart from nitrites slow down bodily functions. Inhalants have similar effects to alcohol. At first, inhalants cause excitement. This is later followed by tiredness, trouble speaking, dizziness, lack of balance, lack of inhibitions and agitation among other alcohol effects. It is important to note that inhalants take approximately 14 days to clear out of the body.

Other inhalant short-term effects include: increased heart rate, delusions, hallucinations, loss of consciousness, vomiting, nausea, slurred speech and loss of coordination. Because inhalants are readily available in most households, people don't actually realise that they can be very addictive. Inhalant addicts usually become long term inhalant users. This puts inhalant addicts at a risk of developing the following health problems.

Examples of health problems include; brain damage, depression, muscle weakness, nose bleeding, headaches, hearing loss and loss of a sense of smell. The toxic chemicals found in inhalants cause inhalant users/addicts become clumsy or slow, develop trouble planning or solving problems, develop memory problems and have a difficulty learning. Nitrites work slightly different. Instead of slowing the brain down, they increase blood vessels size. They also relax body muscles this in turn causes effects such as hyperactivity.

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