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Inhalants are volatile vapours derived from common household objects; when inhaled, these vapours create a euphoric effect. They include glue, nail polish remover, paint, hair spray, and petrol. The most common population that abuses inhalants is teenagers. The risk factors include a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as history of trauma and abuse, comorbid psychiatric condition such as depression, and behavioural issues such as delinquency.


Effects of inhalants


Apart from feelings of euphoria, some inhalants may also result in anal sphincter dilatation; hence, they are often used amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) for anal intercourse. However, users may also experience unwanted side effects, such as hallucinations, dizziness, or drowsiness. They may also experience chest pain and changes in heart rate and rhythm. Death may also arise from heart attacks or injuries stemming from risky behaviours. In the long run, these substances may also be associated with brain changes.


Signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse


  • Odour on the breath or clothes

  • Stains on fingers, hands, or clothes

  • Behavioural changes

  • Loss of appetite or weight

  • Social isolation

  • Facial rash

  • Nosebleeds

  • Ulcers around the nose and mouth and/or mouth dryness

  • Mood changes


Treatment for inhalant abuse


The recommended treatment involves a combination of psychosocial, behavioural, and pharmacological therapy. This includes medicines for symptomatic management and protection of the heart, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to educate patients on how to handle stressful situations, and social support.


Prevention of inhalant abuse


There are unfortunately few guidelines on household products as they are readily available on the market. There are few regulations to ensure that these products are composed of safe chemicals. There was a lot more to be done to reduce incidents of inhalant abuse; for example, the education system as well as manufacturing companies and retail organisations can play a part in education and raising awareness of the risks of inhalant abuse.


If you know anyone around you who has a problem with inhalants, reach out to them and encourage them to see a doctor. It is never too late for treatment.



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