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Effects of Inhalant Abuse

The immediate and long term physical and mental effects of inhalant abuse

Inhalant abuse acts directly on the central nervous system (CNS) to produce psychoactive, or mind-altering, effects. Inhalants have short-term effects similar to anesthetics, which slow the body\s functions.

  • Nearly all inhalant abuse, other than nitrites, produce a pleasurable effect by depressing the CNS.
  • Nitrites make the heart beat faster and produce a sensation of heat and excitement.
  • Inhaled chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and are quickly distributed to the brain and other organs.
  • Within minutes of inhaling, the user experiences intoxication along with other effects similar to those produced by alcohol. Alcohol-like effects include slurred speech, muscle weakness, belligerence, apathy, impaired judgment, euphoria, and dizziness. In addition, inhalant abusers may experience lightheadedness, hallucinations, and delusions.
  • Toluene can produce headache, euphoria, giddy feelings, and an inability to coordinate movements. Exposure to high doses can cause confusion and delirium. Nausea and vomiting are other common side effects.
  • Successive inhalations may make users feel less inhibited and less in control. Continued inhalant abuse in sufficient amounts can produce anesthesia, a loss of sensation, and unconsciousness. After using inhalants heavily, abusers may feel drowsy for several hours and experience a lingering headache.
  • Many individuals who abuse inhalants for prolonged periods over many days report a strong need to continue using them. Compulsive use and a mild withdrawal syndrome can occur with long-term inhalant abuse. Long-term inhalant abusers may exhibit other symptoms, including weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression.

The effects of inhalant abuse can be devistating to an individual\'s health.

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