Substance Abuse Treatment for Inhalant Addiction
Inhalants are a class of medications that are inhaled into the lungs to produce a euphoric effect. Inhalant abuse is conducted by directly spraying the drug into the lungs or indirectly by using an inhalant-soaked rag or similar device.
Millions of Americans have engaged in inhalant abuse at some point in their lives, but unlike the effects of drug abuse, including cocaine or prescription medicines, the effects of inhalant abuse are not generally publicized.
Keep reading to learn more about effective programs for inhalant abuse treatment, and how Icarus Behavioral Health offers hope for lasting recovery from inhalants!
Items Common to Inhalant Abuse
Inhalants include both safe and harmful products, such as nitrous oxide and hairspray. Unfortunately, their status as legal and widespread availability cause problems for clients seeking to avoid triggers. Although some inhalants are medications with legitimate medicinal applications, many are commonplace items that happen to legally contain compounds that can be used to engage in illegal inhalant abuse.
These compounds are potentially lethal and should be avoided at all costs. To name a few inhalants:
Chemicals that evaporate or turn into a gas at room temperature are known as volatile solvents and include common household items like glue, lighter fluid, felt-tip markers, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning fluids.
Compressed gases, such as nitrous oxide (available from dental supply stores or recycled whipped cream containers), propane (from grills and camp stoves), butane (from lighters and refrigerators), and other gases, are all at risk of being at the center of inhalant abuse.
Isoamyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, and cyclohexyl nitrite are all examples of nitrites, chemicals commonly utilized in the medical field or to alleviate chest pain – and also commonly encountered with regard to inhalant abuse.
How Does Inhalant Abuse Begin?
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Using inhalants as a recreational drug to engage in substance abuse is known as huffing. Huffing is slang for inhalant substance abuse, which occurs when someone inhales any aerosol or toxic substance through the nose or mouth by spraying the substance into the nostrils or wetting a cloth and holding it to the face. Besides these, other ways in which one might engage in inhalant abuse include:
- Inhaling vapors straight from a container, as in sniffing or snorting.
- One common method of inhalation is “bagging,” in which the inhalant is soaked into a bag, and the resulting vapors are subsequently inhaled.
- Spraying, typically for aerosols, in which the inhalant is sprayed directly into the nose or mouth
- The inhalant is first placed into a balloon, and then the user inhales the chemical through their mouth.
An inhalant’s euphoric “high” can fade after 15-30 seconds, making them one of the shortest-acting drugs in the substance abuse category.
Who Is at Risk of Huffing or Inhalant Drug Abuse?
An estimated 22.5 million Americans, or roughly 9% of the population, have used, misused, or been addicted to inhalants at some point in their life (the survey was conducted in 2011). Adolescents and young adults under the age of 18 have a higher risk of inhalant usage and addiction than any other age group because many of these chemicals are legal household products.
About 68% of first-time inhalant users in a given poll were under the age of 18. Another study found that half of all inhalant abusers began their habit before the end of ninth grade. Twenty percent of junior high and high school students have abused inhalants, according to a third survey, along with drug, alcohol abuse, and other addictive habits.
What are the Risk Factors for Inhalant Addiction?
In the United States, the average age of first inhalant use or abuse is 13. White and Hispanic children are at a higher risk of experiencing abuse and addiction to inhalants than children of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. The use of inhalants is commonly the first step toward addiction to other substances. These are all statistics courtesy of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. Adolescent inhalant abuse is one of the most significant substance abuse problems among children under 13.
Many dentists and dental hygienists abuse inhalants with regard to the use of nitrous oxide. Those who work in the dental field and have this set of substance abuse risk factors are more likely to struggle with addiction to nitrous oxide due to access to this drug. This is true even though the genetic, environmental, and psychological factors that contribute to substance abuse and addiction are still being researched.
Dental applications of nitrous oxide include wisdom teeth extraction, an oral surgical procedure that typically requires sedation. A small percentage of dentists (5%) with drug abuse difficulties report using nitrous oxide, citing research conducted by the ADA Dentist Health and Awareness Committee.
Chronic Abuse of Nitrous Oxide
“Laughing gas” refers to nitrous oxide – and this legal substance has a high potential for chronic abuse. It’s useful in a number of fields, including medicine and dentistry. Actually, nitrous oxide has been utilized by dentists and surgeons since 1844. The name “laughing gas” refers to the effects of the gas.
Nitrous oxide has a calming effect on anxiety and a pleasant high. Inhalant abusers seek out nitrous oxide for the pleasure it provides. Abuse of nitrous oxide is not new. The recreational usage of this gas dates back to 1799. Nitrous oxide is a powerful anesthetic, but its misuse can have serious consequences. That’s why medical professionals are speaking out about the dangers of nitrous oxide inhalant abusers.
How Is Nitrous Oxide Abused?
N2O, balloons, buzz bombs, hippie crack, NOS, nangs, and nitro are all aliases for nitrous oxide. This drug is commonly found in the parking lot of jam band concerts like the Grateful Dead, Phish, Widespread Panic, and Dave Matthews Band. The electronic dance music scene also has an issue with laughing gas. Because of how it makes people feel, the term “laughing gas” has become synonymous with it.
The gas has no visible hue. It can be used in a variety of contexts, including but not limited to the following:
- Tranquillization and analgesia
- Agent Added to Food
- Evaluation of Engine Efficiency (for automobiles and racing)
- Alcoholism rehabilitation
Nitrous oxide is officially categorized as a dissociative anesthetic. The result is a sense of detachment or “out-of-body” sensations. Inhaling nitrous oxide might give you the sensation of weightlessness. Seeing things that aren’t there and having weakened senses are both possible side effects. Some of the signs of inhalant abuse with regard to nitrous oxide include blue lips, passing out, twitching, drooling, and speaking incoherently. It can even cause withdrawal symptoms.
Application of N2O to Medicine
The majority of patients experience some degree of worry before and during their surgical procedure. These are not limited to dental care but also encompass medical care. In order to help patients relax during difficult operations, nitrous gas is commonly used in medical and dental facilities. The sedative and pain-relieving effects of nitrous oxide are well-documented.
How Dangerous Is N2O (Nitrous Oxide)?
In most instances, nitrous oxide is harmless. A short period of time is required for both its effectiveness and its eventual waning. After the gas exits the body, side effects almost seldom persist. However, nitrous oxide’s effects on the brain can linger and cause acute inhalant intoxication. Volatile substance abuse such as this has a number of detrimental consequences.
Detecting Inhalant Abuse
If you have surgery while under the influence of nitrous oxide, you probably won’t have any recollection of the experience. Even after the gas has left your system, you may still feel the euphoric and antidepressant effects. Some people who try nitrous oxide really like it and can’t wait to do it again. Long-term mental disorders from inhalant dependence, especially nitrous, are not uncommon.
In some cases, as in the tragic passing of Tony Hsieh, former Zappos CEO. The circumstances that led to his death were directly related to his ongoing abuse of nitrous oxide and the dangerous situation it created in his life.
Effects of Nitrous Oxide on Vitamin B12 and Brain Function
The human body is unable to manufacture B12 on its own. We get most of our vitamin B12 from eating meat and taking supplements. B12 is essential for DNA synthesis, maintaining red blood cell production, and other vital processes. The body quickly eliminates B12 from its system, though. This is why it’s important to receive enough vitamin B12 from diet and supplements.
These are some of the things vitamin B12 helps with:
- Boosts healthy brain and nerve function
- Promotes the production of RBCs in the body.
- Aids in the synthesis of fatty acids and the production of energy
- Aids in the regulation of DNA synthesis
- Aids in energy release
- Aids in folic acid absorption
- Increases cellular metabolism
A new batch of RBCs is produced by your body by the millions every minute. It’s impossible to make these cells without B12. Anemia is a serious condition that can develop if this continues.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
Symptoms of a B12 deficiency may be absent in certain cases. In most cases, this is a minor case of B12 insufficiency. When the deficit continues without therapy, though, your symptoms may be severe.
- Trouble breathing
- Diminished memory
- Fatigue or weariness
- The heart’s rate, fast or sluggish
- Appetite loss
- Dizziness, headaches, stomachaches, and bowel issues
- Extreme numbness in the hands or feet
- Numbness or tingling in the limbs
- Weight loss
- Having trouble keeping your balance
These individuals have a high risk of acquiring dementia, manic depression, or psychosis.
Symptoms of a B12 shortage range from mild fatigue to more serious anemia, which includes:
- Pain in the gums, lips, or tongue
- Supplemental weight loss
- Lack of regular menstruation
- Faint or yellowish complexion
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Use of Illicit Drug Inhalants for Recreational Purposes
There is no legitimate medical need for inhalants, such as a prescription, which would increase the risk of addiction or abuse. Because of its unique properties as a surgical sedative, nitrous oxide is rarely given for more than a single procedure. There is no practical reason to inhale other inhalants like hairspray, lighter fluid, or other common home goods; therefore, their abuse is clearly for recreational purposes exclusively.
Inhalant abuse diagnoses often happen when users are discovered huffing more dangerous or rarer household items.
Most inhalants have a half-life of up to 30 minutes; therefore, people who abuse them do so repeatedly over the course of several hours. Inhalants are “very lipid soluble,” which means they easily cross the alveoli in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, where they can subsequently go to the brain. Rarely can medicines cross the blood-brain barrier so quickly, allowing inhalants to accumulate rapidly at high concentrations in the brain.
These people are extremely vulnerable to serious injury or even death due to the fact that many of these compounds are toxic and should not be utilized in the human body. After abusing inhalants, you may feel extremely sleepy for several hours to a whole day and have a persistent headache.
Identifying Someone Using Commonly Abused Inhalants
The effects of an inhalant “high” are comparable to those of being under the influence of alcohol or opioids because most inhalants are CNS depressants. Signs include:
- Paint stains on clothes
- Skin or hair stained with paint, solvent, or another substance
- The inability to control one’s movements or lack of inhibition
- feeling tired or exhausted for no apparent reason
- Wheezing or nodding off in the middle of a discussion
- Sickness and throwing up
- Rash around the nose and mouth, known as “glue sniffer’s rash”
- Presence of discarded items like tissues, bags, cans, and rags
Quitting Inhalants and Help to Prevent Inhalant Abuse
Like any other addictive chemical, inhalants can lead to withdrawal symptoms if a person stops abusing them after periods of chronic use. Seizures are one of the most significant risks of continued inhalant use. Sudden death and other issues may manifest also.
Using or misusing inhalants greatly increases the risk of mortality. Sniffing or inhaling dangerous chemicals, such as glue or paint thinners, can be fatal the first time the chemical is used or years later due to problems. Because inhalants are absorbed in the lungs faster than oxygen, they end up displacing oxygen and can cause cardiac failure or suffocation in people who abuse them. First-time users are not immune to abrupt heart failure from inhalant misuse, often known as sudden sniffing death syndrome.
A buildup of inhalants in the brain can stop breathing, heart function, and other essential biological functions, resulting in coma or death. Brain damage caused by an accumulation of harmful substances can drastically lower the quality of life and even cause death at an early age.
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Social Consequences of Inhalant Use
Those who struggle with inhalant addiction are more likely to drop out of school than their non-addicted peers since many people start abusing inhalants at an early age. Many young people who start abusing inhalants go on to experiment with or develop an addiction to other drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine addiction, and/or opioids.
Rehab for Inhalants
Although there aren’t many dedicated facilities in the US for dealing with inhalant usage and addiction, most addiction treatment programs will be able to help you. Individual and support groups, as well as medical management of withdrawal symptoms, make inpatient rehab a good choice for many people who are addicted to inhalants.
Help for Inhalant Addiction: Found Here
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we provide support groups and more for volatile substance misuse, including nitrous and other inhalant abuse. If you or someone you know is suffering from inhalant abuse, it’s vital that you get them the help they need before it’s too late.
We prescribe a mixture of different therapies, as well as promote physical healing for all clients dealing with inhalants. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one suffering from this disorder, contact us immediately for a confidential consultation!