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What Are the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Inhalant Use?

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Updated March 27, 2014

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Question: What Are the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Inhalant Use?
Answer: Inhalant use can produce a variety of effects on the user that begin within seconds after the substance is breathed into the lungs.

Initially, the effects of solvent and gas inhalants can mimic alcohol intoxication and excitation which is soon followed by drowsiness, lightheadedness, disinhibition, and agitation. With the inhalation of increased amounts of these type inhalants they can produce anesthesia and lead to unconsciousness.

Short-Term Effects

Depending on the kind of solvent or gas, inhalants can produce additional effects, which can include:

  • Belligerence
  • Apathy
  • Impaired functioning
  • Impaired judgment
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Lethargy
  • Depressed reflexes
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stupor
  • Headache
  • Euphoria
  • Inability to coordinate movements

High dosaages of inhalants can result in confusion or delirium.

Effects of Nitrites

Unlike solvents and gases, nitrites act by dilating blood vessels and relaxing muscles. Short-term effects of nitrites include:

  • Excitement
  • Sensation of heat
  • Flush feeling
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Long-Term Effects of Inhalants

After prolonged use of inhalants, abusers report a strong need to continue using them. With long-term abuse, users can develop a compulsive use of inhalants and can experience mild withdrawal syndrome.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research shows that inhalant users initiate use of cigarettes, alcohol and almost all other drugs at younger ages than those who did not use inhalants.

Also, early inhalant users are more likely to develop substance abuse disorders, including abuse of prescription drugs, than other substance abusers with no history of inhalants use.

Back to: Inhalants FAQ

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Inhalants." Research Report Series Updated July 2012

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Inhalants." Drug Guide. Accessed March 2014.

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