Huffing, or inhalant abuse, does have the potential to become addictive. For example, huffing military use is a problem for the U.S. Armed Forces. And huffing addiction includes characteristics of all addictions. Some huffers feel cravings or compulsions to continue huffing. And withdrawal symptoms are also possible in habitual inhalant abusers.
But what kinds of chemicals do people huff? How can you tell if someone you love is abusing inhalants? And what are the health impacts of huffing? We address these questions and more here.
What is huffing?
“Huffing” is a slang term used to describe inhaling the vapors of various chemicals and household products in order to achieve a high. Chemical vapors can be found in over 1,000 common household products, including solvents, aerosols, and gases. This can include seemingly-innocuous substances like nail polish, markers, hair products, paint, and glue. When huffing, the vapors of chemical compounds are inhaled either by breathing directly from open containers, or rags which have been soaked with a substance. The fumes can also be inhaled from a bag which contains a bit of the substance.
Many huffers target particular chemicals called nitrites and inhale these chemicals to achieve certain effects. Nitrites are inhalants which are used to “enhance” sexual experiences, rather than to achieve a high. Cyclohexyl nitrite, amyl nitrite, and butyl nitrite can be found in some household objects such as room deodorizers, and are also sold online and in adult stores in sealed capsules. Nitrite abuse is more common in adults, where huffing household chemicals is most common among teenagers.
What does huffing do to the body?
Depending on what chemicals are being abused, huffing can have a variety of effects. Huffing can result in a euphoric or intoxicated feeling that is similar to the effects of alcohol. It will initially give a feeling or excitement, then drowsiness, lightheadedness, and agitation. However, some chemicals that people inhale can also cause serious adverse reactions. Some of the adverse effects of huffing include:
- impaired judgment
- mood changes
Huffing and the brain
Huffing is incredibly dangerous because of the effect it has on the brain and the central nervous system. Inhaling chemical compounds or their vapors can cause brain damage by depriving the brain of oxygen. Huffing can strip the lining of nerves, causing incurable muscle spasms and tremors. Even worse, some of these chemicals are actually absorbed by the fatty tissues in the brain. Inhalants cause serious health problems ranging from hearing loss to heart problems. Huffing can easily result in permanent injury or death.
How do you get addicted to huffing?
Huffing addiction after some use and time. But the addiction liability and potential is high, because it’s difficult to control how much of a substance gets into your system through inhalation. Combined with quick action time to the brain, the risk of addiction to huffing or overdose is high, especially when you huff to avoid emotional or psychological problems.
Who gets addicted to huffing?
Almost 17 million people have tried huffing at some point in their lives. While huffing occurs in all age groups, it’s most common among adolescents, who see it as an easy way to achieve an altered state of consciousness. The National Survey on Drug Use and Abuse found that 67% of first-time inhalant users were under 18 years old. After alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana, inhalants are the 4th most common substance abused by high school students.
Signs of huffing addiction
How can you tell if someone you love is addicted to huffing? It may not be easy. Chemical compounds that people inhale are common and easily accessible, but here are a few tell-tale signs of huffing use, abuse and possible addiction:
- Frequently seeming drunk or disoriented
- Hiding spray paint cans, solvents containers, or chemical-soaked rags
- Paint or stains from household products on face, hands, clothing
- Red, runny nose
- Sores or rash around nose and mouth
- Strong chemical odors on breath or clothing
Notice some of these signs in someone you care about? Help is available! You can also learn more about inhalant addiction, available treatment options, and what you can do to help yourself or an addicted loved one quit in our inhalants addiction treatment programs and help GUIDE and be better prepared to take matters into hands.
How to avoid huffing addiction
The only way to avoid becoming a huffing addict is not to inhale household chemicals. Because it’s difficult to control how much of a substance gets into your system through inhalation, the risk of addiction or overdose is high. Apart from the addictive potential, huffing poses serious, sometimes life-threatening health risks.
Are you addicted to huffing?
If you struggle with huffing, it’s not too late to find help. As with any substance abuse problem, the best place to start is by talking to your doctor or a mental health professional. Avoid putting yourself in situations where you’ll be tempted to huff. Avoid people and places which might trigger the impulse. Look for support groups in your area, and ask your family and friends to help you through this difficult time. And leave us your questions, comments or feedback about huffing here. We will try to answer all legitimate questions personally and promptly.