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Inhalants represent a broad spectrum of substances and chemicals which produce vapors that are mind altering when inhaled. Very often, these substances are not considered drugs because they are manufactured to be used for other legitimate purposes.

The inhalants most commonly abused fall into several categories, many of which are household items such as spray paint, cooking spray, hair spray, gasoline, and nail polish remover. There also appears to be an increase in the abuse of freon, which is manufactured for use in refrigeration systems and air conditioners. Besides these common household items, other inhalants include so-called “room deodorizers or liquid incense” which appear to be manufactured specifically for their abuse potential. Chemically, these are often amyl nitrate or butyl nitrate and called “Rush” or Locker Room”. These substances usually are sold in small glass bottles in liquid form.

The abuse of inhalants generally involves concentrating the vapors so they may be inhaled. In the case of spray paint and other aerosols, they are often sprayed into a plastic or paper bag, rags, socks, or soda cans to be inhaled. Also, abuse of volatile hydrocarbons such as butane, propane, and lighter fluid is a popular method of achieving an inhalant “high”.

Those who abuse inhalants are referred to as “huffers” on the street. Symptoms and effects included slowed reflexes, double vision, odor of the substance abused, and red eyes. Frequent abuse may result in damage to the brain, liver, kidneys, and blood and bone marrow, and central nervous system. Additionally, studies are now underway into “sudden sniffing death,” in which abusers of inhalants die instantly while abusing the substance. Sniffing overdose is one of the most dangerous types of overdose, since it happens instantly without any warning signs, unlike some other kinds of drug overdose which develop more slowly.

Street names of some of the more commonly abused inhalants are Rush, Locker Room, Laughing Gas, Glue, Whippets (CO2 cartridges), Bolt snappers, and typewriter correction fluid.

Abuse of inhalants represents a particular problem for law enforcement and education and prevention experts. Strict laws are passed to control other illicit drugs, but spray deodorant, Freon, and other household items are nearly impossible to outlaw entirely. The only recourse is to educate the public about the dangers inherent in this type of drug abuse. Young people are particularly susceptible to inhalant abuse since these substances are relatively inexpensive and within the price range of adolescents who may not have much money to buy more expensive drugs.