Drug Facts

With so many voices and opinions out there, it’s important to understand the facts.

Fact is that while you’re a teen (and even into your early 20’s!), you’re still growing and developing, and drug abuse during these years in particular can have a lasting impact. Another fact to consider: the brain is much more vulnerable to addiction during these years. 90% of Americans with a substance abuse problem started smoking, drinking or using other drugs before age 18.

When it comes to drug use, individual reactions and experiences vary, so it’s important to understand the usual risks and effects, both short- and long-term. Knowledge can be the key to making your own best decisions.

Information provided isn’t to prevent anyone from seeking medical treatment under the advice and care of their doctor. A variety of substances offer potential medicinal value, but that doesn’t negate their risks, especially when abused.

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Inhalants are toxic chemical vapors. Sniffing, huffing or inhaling these chemicals can cause brain damage and even be fatal.


Laughing gas, poppers, snappers, whippets

What is it?

Inhalants are dangerous chemical vapors produced by a range of common, but highly toxic, substances. When inhaled, these chemicals can cause damaging, mind-altering effects and sudden death. The three main types of inhalants are: solvents, gases and nitrates. Inhalants can be found in a range of products – like paint thinners, glues, cleaning products, gases, lighter fluids and aerosol sprays – that may be common, but are highly toxic when abused.

The Risks

Since the “high” feeling of inhalants lasts only a few minutes, people often use them over and over again, which is extremely dangerous. “Sudden sniffing death” can happen to a completely healthy young person from a single session of inhalant use.1

Inhalants produce effects similar to those of anesthesia. They slow the body down, produce a numbing feeling and can cause unconsciousness. Inhaling concentrated amounts of these chemicals can cause heart failure, suffocation, convulsions, seizures and coma.2

Long-Term Effects

Inhalants go through the lungs and into the bloodstream, and are quickly distributed to the brain and other organs in the body.3 Ongoing exposure to inhalants can lead to brain or nerve damage that produces results similar to that of multiple sclerosis. Inhalants can also do damage to the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Prolonged abuse can permanently affect thinking, movement, vision and hearing.

The Bottom Line

Inhalants can be damaging to both your body and brain. The dangerous effects can be irreversible, and the truth is, inhaling or “huffing” toxic chemicals can be deadly – even the very first time.

  1. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency. Drugs of Abuse: Inhalants.
    Retrieved July 2011.
    View Source []
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Inhalants.
     Retrieved May 2013.
    View Source  []
  3. U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency. Drugs of Abuse: Inhalants.
    Retrieved July 2011.
    View Source []

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