One reason scientists are so interested in inhalants is that these chemicals affect the body in lots of ways. While some effects are due to changes in the brain, others are direct actions on other parts of the body, such as the circulatory system.
Did you know that some inhalants directly increase the size of blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow through? And some inhalants can make the heart beat faster. This can be a serious problem, especially if someone inhales butane gas.
Butane, found in cigarette lighters and refills, makes the heart extra sensitive to a chemical that carries messages from the nervous system to the heart. This chemical, noradrenalin, tells the heart to beat faster when you're in a stressful situation—like if something suddenly scares you.
If the heart becomes too sensitive to noradrenalin, a normal jolt of it may cause the heart to temporarily lose its rhythm and stop pumping blood through the body. Some inhalant users die this way. Inhalants can also cause death by suffocation. This occurs when the inhaled fumes take the place of oxygen in the lungs and the brain. This is known as Sudden Sniffing Death.