Inhalants are volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect. Inhalants include a broad range of chemicals found in hundreds of different products that may have different pharmacological effects. There are four general categories of inhalants:

  • Volatile solvents are liquids that vaporize at room temperature and are found in products such as paint thinners/removers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, correction fluids, and felt-tip marker fluids.

  • Aerosols are sprays that contain propellants and solvents and include spray paints, deodorant and hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays for cooking, and fabric protector sprays.

  • Gases used as inhalants include medical anesthetics (ether, chloroform, and nitrous oxide) as well as gases used in household or commercial products (butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers, and refrigerants).

  • Nitrites include cyclohexyl nitrite, isoamyl (amyl) nitrite, and isobutyl (butyl) nitrite, and are commonly known as "poppers" or "snappers.”

Health Effects  

Most inhalants act directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to produce psychoactive, or mind-altering, effects. They have short-term effects similar to anesthetics, which slow the body's functions.

Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication with initial excitation, then drowsiness, disinhibition, light headedness, and agitation. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce anaesthesia, a loss of sensation, and even loss of consciousness.

Prolonged sniffing of the highly concentrated chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms and lead to heart failure and death within minutes of a session of prolonged sniffing. This syndrome, known as "sudden sniffing death," can result from a single session of inhalant use. Chronic exposure to inhalants can produce significant, sometimes irreversible, damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

A strong need to continue using inhalants has been reported among many individuals, particularly those who abuse inhalants for prolonged periods over many days. Compulsive use and a mild withdrawal syndrome can occur with long-term inhalant abuse. Additional symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant abusers include weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression.

Common terms Associated with Inhalants



Air Blast


Buzz Bomb

Nitrous Oxide


Using Inhalants


Inhalants abuser


Using Inhalants


Isobutyl Nitrate


Sniffing or inhaling glue

Poor Man's Pot