Inhalants: Therapeutic use, Treatment. Inhalants rehab.
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 4:27 pm
Official names: Aerosol propellants, medical anesthetic gases, amyl nitrite, butane, chlorofluorocarbons, chloroform, ether, halothane, isobutyl nitrite, nitrous oxide, toluene, organic solvents, refrigerant gases, volatile solvents Street names: Aimies, air blast, ames, amys, aroma of men, bolt, boppers, bullet, bullet bolt, buzz bomb, climax, discorama, hardware, heart-on, highball, hippie crack, honey oil, huff, kick, laughing gas, lightning bolt, locker room, Medusa, moon gas, Oz, pearls, poor man’s pot, poppers, quicksilver, rush, rush snappers, Satan’s secret, shoot the breeze, snappers, sniff, snotballs, spray, Texas shoe-shine, thrust, toilet water, tolly, toncho, whippets or whippits, whiteout Drug classifications: Not scheduled
ANESTHETIC: An agent that causes loss of sensation or unconsciousness.
BAGGING: Breathing mind-altering fumes from a substance sprayed or placed inside a plastic or paper bag, with the bag held tightly around the mouth.
HUFFING: Breathing mind-altering fumes from a cloth that has been soaked in a volatile substance then stuffed into the mouth.
INHALANTS: Legal household, industrial, medical, and office products that are volatile (vaporize or evaporate easily), producing chemical vapors. Abusers inhale concentrated amounts of these vapors, by various means, to alter their consciousness.
SNIFFING OR SNORTING: Inhaling intoxicating vapors, through the nose, from a volatile substance such as an anesthetic gas, industrial or household solvent, art supply, or aerosol propellant.
SUDDEN SNIFFING DEATH (SSD) SYNDROME: Fatal cardiac arrest that results, under certain conditions, after someone deeply inhales a volatile chemical for its intoxicating effects. Death occurs within minutes.
Inhalant is a term applied to an estimated 1,000 to 1,400 legal products used in households, industry, businesses, and medical settings. These products are as common as a felt-tip marker, a bottle of correction fluid or nail polish remover, a tank of gasoline, a tube of model airplane glue, air freshener or vegetable cooking spray, or a can of silver spray paint.
Inhalants contain chemicals that are volatile, meaning they evaporate or vaporize quickly. When someone inhales a concentrated amount of these vapors, the vapors affect his or her normal mental functioning.
Inhalant abuse refers to the intentional inhalation of such products to experience a carefree, euphoric high. The exact mind-altering effects of inhalants vary, depending on the product involved, but they are generally similar to those produced by alcohol intoxication or anesthesia. The health ramifications can be serious, in both the short and long term, because most inhalants are highly toxic.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans experiment with inhalants for the first time each year, according to results of the 2000 National Household Survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The survey found that in 1999, one million Americans tried inhalants for the first time — the highest annual number of inhalant initiates since 1965. The 1998 estimate of new inhalant abusers was 918,000; in 1997 it reached 975,000.
Volatile solvents are useful in industry and in homes because of their ability to dissolve fat. When inhaled, however, this property poses problems to the brain and the network of nerves that connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body, “…thus, because the brain is a lipid-rich organ, chronic solvent abuse dissolves brain cells,” the American Academy of Pediatrics wrote in a 1996 policy paper about inhalants. The chemical vapors also damage the myelin sheath, the fatty wrapper that insulates the fibers of many nerve cells that carry signals.
Solvent abusers can die, sometimes after a single prolonged episode of sniffing, from either physical effects of the chemicals or dangerous behavior related to the user’s impaired state of mind. The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas, records 100 to 125 deaths from inhalants a year, a number it considers a partial measure. The United States has no central system for logging deaths and injuries from inhalant use.
Though inhalants are legitimate, legal products, the consequences of their misuse have led 38 state legislatures in the United States to enact laws governing their sale and possession to minors. In the United Kingdom as well, prevention efforts include legislation that makes possession of volatile substances more difficult for youth.
Scientists differ in their exact definition of inhalants. However, inhalants generally meet three criteria: they are volatile at room temperature; they are not already part of a distinct class of inhaled drugs, such as nicotine or cocaine; and they are inhaled, by various means, to alter the user’s consciousness.
In 2001, the annual Monitoring the Future study (MTF), conducted by the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that 17.1% of eighth graders had abused inhalants at some point in their lives. In 1995, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found inhalants to be the second most commonly abused illicit drug by American youth ages 12 years to 17 years, after marijuana.
The intoxicating action of certain chemical vapors is not a new discovery. Some researchers have claimed that Pythoness, a mystic in ancient Delphi, delivered her famous oracles while under the influence of heady fumes escaping from an underground cavern.
In the 1770s, Sir Joseph Priestly, an English chemist, discovered nitrous oxide (laughing gas). In 1799, Sir Humphrey Davy suggested it could be used to reduce pain during surgery. In nineteenth-century North America, Europe, and Great Britain, anesthetics (nitrous oxide and ether) and volatile hydrocarbons were inhaled for recreation. In the early twentieth century, the fashion turned to inhaling ether and chloroform, a toxic, volatile liquid then being used as a general anesthetic.
In the 1940s and 1950s, abusers began inhaling gasoline. A report of a youth’s addiction to gasoline was printed in the scientific literature in the early 1960s, and gasoline remains a dangerous and widely abused inhalant around the world. Also in the 1960s, sniffing glue — such as the type used in building model airplanes — became popular among some youths, and glue sniffing remains popular today.
Inhalant abuse can also be a hazard in some occupations. People who work in the refrigeration industry may abuse Freon, hydrocarbons used in refrigerants; and people working in medical fields may abuse nitrous oxide. A 1979 study, ‘Abuse of Nitrous Oxide,” published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, found that 20% of dental and medical students had abused nitrous oxide.
Most abusers are drawn to inhalants for their psychoactive, or mind-altering, effects. Users of nitrites are the exception. The nitrites make up an inhalant subcategory that includes amyl, butyl, and cyclohexyl nitrites. These substances were nicknamed poppers because in the past, they were packaged in ampules. Users cracked the ampules to release the vapors. Nitrites are abused, internationally, because they produce a sexual rush, accompanied by a sense of power and exhilaration.
Nitrites were highly popular in the United States in 1970s, particularly in the gay community. One study, published in 1988 in the National Institute of Drug Abuse Research Monograph Series, reported that by 1979 up to five million people used nitrites weekly. By the early 1980s, however, nitrite use dropped dramatically. In the United States, amyl nitrite became available solely by prescription in 1979. Also, nitrite use was associated with Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common cancer affecting people with AIDS.
Amyl nitrite’s place on the streets has largely been taken by butyl nitrite, a similar chemical with milder effects. These products, sold as “room odorizers” under such brand names as Locker Room and Rush, are often available at head shops, concerts, raves, and dance clubs.
Legal, accessible, dangerous
Re-Solv, a nonprofit group in the United Kingdom that works against solvent abuse, claims that the average home contains about 30 abusable products.
Because they are readily available, inhalants may be the first drug with which children and adolescents experiment — preceding cigarettes. The products are inexpensive or can be easily shoplifted, and many are as close as a kitchen cupboard or utility closet. In addition, inhalants can be easily hidden and are sold legally, factors that contribute to their widespread use. Inhalants are also popular because they produce a high that, in general, hits fast and wears off quickly.
Inhalants’ everyday nature may lead some young people to think that the substances are harmless. In addition, risk-taking adolescents may believe they are different and immune to damage, and thus dismiss health warnings about inhalants.
In fact, inhalants can kill, either from accidental causes related to their use, side effects, or a syndrome called sudden sniffing death. Even when inhalant use is not fatal, it can cripple users’ bodies and minds. Research has shown that even short-term inhalant use can damage brain functioning over the long term. It also can trip up different parts of the nervous system, including nerve pathways and the brain’s cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and hippocampus. Depending on the chemicals involved, inhalants damage the heart, liver, kidneys, bone marrow, and lungs, and also reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Inhalant users may also develop hearing, vision, immune system, and muscle damage over the long term.
In the 1960s, people talked of glue sniffing as “melting your brain.” Indeed, brain scans of long-term heavy toluene abusers (an industrial solvent common in many inhaled substances, including glue) show visible shrinkage of brain tissue.