Regular use of inhalants can cause serious harm to vital organs and systems besides the brain. Inhalants can cause:
- Heart damage
- Liver failure
- Muscle weakness
- Aplastic anemia—the body produces fewer blood cells
- Nerve damage, which can lead to chronic pain
Damage to these organs is not reversible even when the person stops abusing inhalants.
Effects of Specific Chemicals
Depending on the type of inhalant used, the harmful health effects will differ. The table below lists a few examples.
|Amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite||Poppers, video head cleaner||
|Butane, propane||Lighter fluid, hair and pain strays||
|Freon (difluoroethane substitutes)||Refrigerant and aerosol propellant||
Paint thinners and removers, degreasers
|Nitrous oxide, hexane||
|Toluene||Gasoline, paint thinners and removers, correction fluid||
Spot removers, degreasers
Butane gas, found in cigarette lighters and refills, makes the heart extra sensitive to a chemical naturally found in the body that carries messages from the central nervous system to the heart. This chemical, noradrenaline, tells the heart to beat faster when someone is stressed. If the heart becomes too sensitive to noradrenaline, it can affect the heart's rhythm, which can cause death.
Nitrite use has other health risks. Unlike most other inhalants, which act directly on the brain, nitrites make blood vessels bigger, allowing more blood to flow through them. Inhaled nitrites make the heart beat faster and produce a sensation of heat and excitement that can last for several minutes. Nitrites can also cause dizziness and headaches. Nitrites are associated with unsafe sexual practices that can increase the risk for getting and spreading diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.
Signs of Inhalant Use
Sometimes you can see signs that tell you a person is abusing inhalants, such as:
- Chemical odors on breath or clothing
- Paint or other stains on the face, hands, or clothing
- Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers, or rags or clothing soaked with chemicals
- Drunk or disoriented actions
- Slurred speech
- Nausea (feeling sick) or loss of appetite and weight loss
- Confusion, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression