Causes & Symptoms of Inhalant Addiction

Since 1957, Azure Acres Treatment Center has given hope to individuals struggling with inhalant addiction and its lasting effects. Azure Acres provides residents high-quality alcohol and drug abuse treatment near Santa Rosa, California.

Understanding Inhalant Addiction

Learn about inhalant addiction

Inhalants are a group of common substances that are abused through inhaling the fumes and vapors they produce to obtain mind-altering effects that include impaired coordination, lightheadedness, lowered inhibitions, and dizziness. There are hundreds of inhalants that can be abused, including the following:

  • Volatile solvents: This grouping of inhalants can include adhesives, cleaning fluids, paint thinner, and lacquer that vaporize when they reach room temperature.
  • Gases: Commonly abused gases include butane, propane, nitrous oxide, and chloroform.
  • Aerosols: Aerosols include spray paint, hairspray, and other products that have solvents or propellants in them.
  • Nitrites: Amyl and butyl, which are the most common nitrites, are often used to increase sexual experiences.

Inhalant abuse is very dangerous and can bring about a number of possibly destructive effects. By seeking treatment, these effects of inhalant abuse can be avoided.


Inhalant addiction statistics

The majority of inhalant abuse is conducted by adolescents and teenagers, however, there are adults who also participate in this form of drug abuse. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NS-DUH) reports that 60,000 adults abuse inhalants each year. Additionally, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) states that inhalant abuse has caused roughly 10,000 emergency room visits each year throughout the country.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for inhalant addiction

Substance abuse and addiction can be brought on by a number of internal and external factors, and it is often the result of a number of influences. Experts in the field of mental health who have researched the genesis of addiction have recognized many genetic and environmental causes, including:

Genetic: Family history is one of the most common predictors of if an individual will or will not develop an inhalant abuse problem. If a sibling or a parent has a substance use disorder, an individual is more likely to also develop the same issues. Recently, scientists have recognized numerous genes that appear to impact an individual’s risk variance for developing a substance use disorder.

Environmental: Those who have a history of abuse and/or neglect might start abusing inhalants because of their accessibility. When this occurs, the abuse and/or neglect that one feels, combined with his or her access to inhalants, serve as environmental factors for abuse. Other factors can include exposure to chronic stress, living in poverty, and socializing with others who engage in substance abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of trauma
  • Early exposure to substance abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Living in poverty
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, and/or mental illness
  • Personal history of abuse and/or neglect
  • Prior substance abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of inhalant addiction

With hundreds of substances in the category of inhalants, the symptoms that one might exhibit can vary. However, the following are some of the most common symptoms that an individual who is battling an inhalant abuse problem may display:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Swaying and/or stumbling
  • Engaging in risky, dangerous behaviors
  • Having large amounts of glue, aerosols, paint, or other inhalants in one’s possession
  • Lying about one’s whereabouts and activities
  • Slurred speech
  • Belligerence

Physical symptoms:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Breathing problems
  • Sores near the mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Emitting a chemical or gas-like odor
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Headaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired coordination
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in activities and issues that were previously important
  • Excitability and restlessness
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Apathy
  • Unprovoked agitation or anger


Effects of inhalant addiction

The damage that one can cause to him or herself through inhalant abuse can vary based on the type of inhalant that is being abused and how much of it is being consumed. Below are some of the most common effects of inhalant abuse:

  • Hearing loss
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Damage to the brain, kidneys, and liver
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Anemia
  • Blindness

Co-Occurring Disorders

Inhalant addiction and co-occurring disorders

Many individuals who abuse inhalants are also struggling with an additional mental health condition, such as one or more of the following:

  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of inhalant withdrawal and overdose

Effects of inhalant withdrawal: For those who have been participating in continued inhalant abuse, suddenly stopping or reducing his or her use can cause a series of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms to develop, including:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Powerful headaches
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors and convulsions
  • Excessive sweating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Intense cravings

Effects of inhalant overdose: Abusing inhalants comes with the risk of overdose, which can be deadly. Someone who shows any of the following symptoms after abusing inhalants should obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Severe trouble breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Bleeding from the nose

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I have been in and out of treatment for years and could not remain sober for more than a couple years sometimes no more than 60 days. I attended groups and one on one therapy with my counselor there and this time something magical happened for me there. Azure Acres saved my life -- check this place out if you are looking for treatment!

– Former Patient