Inhalants? What Are They?

The Foundation for a Drug-Free World shares 10 facts about inhalants so you can make informed decisions.
Inhalants can be categorized into different types such as liquids, sprays and gases.
Inhalants can be categorized into different types such as liquids, sprays and gases.

What do we call “inhalants”?

“Inhalants” refers to the vapors from toxic substances which are inhaled to reach a quick high. According to the National Poison Data System, some 3,400 different products are being abused as inhalants. These include household and other common products such as shoe polish, glue, gasoline, lighter fluid, whipped cream aerosols, spray paint, correction fluid, cleaning fluid, felt-tip marker fluid and paint solvents.


While you might not hear much about inhalants, their use can be disastrous. So what are their effects and consequences? The Foundation for a Drug-Free World has the answer to those questions:

  1. The chemicals found in these products can change the way the brain works and cause other problems in the body.
  2. Inhalants often contain more than one chemical. While some leave the body quickly, others stay for a long time and get absorbed by fatty tissues in the brain and central nervous system, causing serious long-term problems.
  3. Inhalant use can cause damage to the heart, kidneys, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs.
  4. Inhalants starve the body and brain of oxygen and force the heart to beat irregularly and more rapidly and can damage brain cells and the nervous system.
  5. Users can experience nausea and nosebleeds and lose their sense of hearing, vision or smell.
  6. Chronic use can lead to the weakening, shrinking and loss of muscle, and the poisonous chemicals gradually damage the lungs and the immune system.
  7. A healthy person can die from inhalants by using it only once. This is called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.
  8. Inhalants can be physically and psychologically addictive. Users report a strong urge to continue taking them, especially after continued intake over many days.
  9. In the United States, an estimated 2.1 million people used some form of inhalant in the past year.
  10. Inhalant abuse is one of the most common forms of drug abuse in the 11–15 year age group in England and Wales.

These are only 10 facts about inhalants. Find out more by doing the online course on