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Drugs & Health Blog

Word of the Day: Polyneuropathy

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

According to NIDA’s glossary, polyneuropathy is a “permanent change or malfunction of nerves.” “Poly” means “many,” so multiple nerves throughout the body such as in the arms, legs, hands, and feet are affected.

Possible symptoms of polyneuropathy are weakness, the feeling of pins and needles, or burning pain. In the most extreme cases, people can have trouble breathing and experience organ failure.

Many things can cause polyneuropathy, from genetics to a nutritional deficiency. But something else can also cause it—inhaling toxic, poisonous fumes, like those found in certain household products, in order to get high.

Long-term inhalant abuse can break down myelin, a fatty tissue that surrounds and protects some nerve fibers. Myelin helps nerve fibers carry their messages quickly and efficiently throughout the body and to the brain. Damaged myelin can lead to muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent difficulty with basic actions like walking, bending, and talking.

Don’t forget about sudden sniffing death, which can occur when inhaled fumes fill up the cells in the lungs with poisonous chemicals, leaving no room for the oxygen needed to breathe. This lack of oxygen can lead to nerve damage, suffocation, and even death.

Sudden sniffing death could occur during a person’s 100th time using inhalants or the first time. There’s no way to predict it.

Learn more about the consequences of abusing inhalants.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


drugs are bad there not good and if you do it youll be screwed!!!!!!!

Don't touch the drugs!
[company name deleted, per guidelines]

naver do durgs

Dugs are bad fro yu nd if yu do them yu will di
Drug free
Drug expensive
funny the people commenting are just saying common sense things they are just repeating what they heard not putting heart behind it check yourself before you comment if people go to this wed site they know "drugs are bad" so tell them something from the heart like if you are useing its not the end of the world i have been there hell i have been a lot of places i have ptsd depression add adhd and i have been addicted to drugs i tried weed cigs and beer i also wanted and tried to kill my self at some points in time but i and regret it its a part of me now a realization on life i did not want to die and the fact that i almost did makes my life sweeter drugs really did not help much the withdrawals during the week was a pain i did not have the money too keep up with the habits i have stopped and i will not look back for drugs is just treating the symptoms not the root of the problem if you are using or thinking about using go see a docter find the root and fix your problems
Wow im tuched pls rite more without punctuation
Why do you feel you needed to put this person down? He was at least brave enough to share his story. Who cares if there were spelling errors or no punctuation. I'm sure you spelled all your words right.
Polyneuropathy can result in the lost feeling of limbs. This comes from inhaling the toxic fumes from tobacco. Do you think a lost leg is worth one more smoke?
The complications aren't worth it. There are many better things you can do with your life than drugs.
this is so sad drugs really do damage
I think that this breaking down of the myelin can happen to too nonsmokers who breathe in the poisonous air secondhand as well as habitual smokers.
This is terrifying because house hold products are so easily attainable. "Sudden sniffing death" alarmed me, and so did the thought that your brain can PERMANENTLY change because of something we clean our houses with.
You don't always have control over your polyneuropathy.
It's scary to think that a poor decision in my teen years could affect my brain function for the rest of my life.
Every little drug can affect your life. Your nerves in your brain and body are fragile. Protect them.
Polyneuropathy can result in the lost feeling of limbs. This comes from inhaling the toxic fumes from tobacco. Do you think a lost leg is worth one more smoke? I don't.
It's scary that people still do drugs when they could be loosing their legs!
It is not worth it to put your body, your life, your family, and much more through this just because of a temporary high. This stuff is serious and does so much to your body, Stay away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It is not worth it to put your life, family, body and much more through this just because of a temporary high. Stay away
It's not worth the risk of permanent nerve malfunction just to get high. Take care of your life.
I am very surprised to learn that inhaling poisonous fumes just once can cut off oxygen to the brain long enough to shut it down, for good. I suppose if there is no oxygen in your blood and it is suddenly filled with toxic fumes, your brain is unable to function leading to it's shutdown and consequently, all other vital organs. Long-term inhalant abuse is so dangerous because myelin is unrepairable, and therefore effects like muscle spasms and the inability to walk correctly would be lifelong.
Scary to think a less talked about drugs like inhalants are so severe. I'm sure lots of kids think it's harmless because no one teaches you about them
Don't do drugs, save feeling in ur limbs,be happy
Seems like this id why addiction comes.
Drugs can cause permanent damage to your nerve system, which can cause damage to your senses, something that many people do not consider.
I didn't think inhalants could do that to you, and it surprises me that they don't teach about them more.
Wow I mean seriously? Why would anyone risk breathing problems organ failure and your nerves oh my gosh your nerves why would you risk doing that to your limbs? that's not a good enough reason to ruin your life.
I started polyneuropathy 3 years ago and my history is exactly what you describe except that I don't use drugs, just oxymetazoline, better known as Afrin.