Five Things Inhalants Can Do to Your Body

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Aerosol spray paint cans covered in multicolored paint

Inhalants are chemicals found in ordinary household or workplace products that people breathe in (inhale) on purpose to get “high.” Examples are glue, gasoline, paint, permanent markers (Sharpies), and aerosol sprays.

Would you drink these products? Of course not; they’re filled with poisons. Then why would you inhale them?

Did you know that inhaling these products’ fumes—even just once—can be very harmful to your brain and body? Here are just five of the problems that inhalants can cause:

  1. A weakened immune system: This can make you more vulnerable to diseases.
  2. Organ damage: Your heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys can be affected.
  3. Brain damage: When used over a long period of time, inhalants can prevent your brain from getting enough oxygen. This can lead to the loss of brain tissue, loss of coordination, loss of hearing or vision, seizures, and limb spasms.
  4. Blackout or coma: You can become unconscious either for a relatively short time (a blackout) or for a long time (coma).
  5. Sudden sniffing death: This can happen in two different ways: (1) the poisons make your heart beat faster than normal and irregularly, and it suddenly stops; or (2) air is blocked from getting into your lungs.

For more about the types of inhalants and the dangers associated with each type, visit our Drug Facts page on inhalants. And check out this Q&A on inhalants from this year’s National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week Chat Day.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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