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Signs of Inhalant Abuse to Look Out For

Inhalant abuse is dangerous and more popular among kids and teens who may not realize the effects of such. If you are concerned that your child may be using inhalants, look out for these signs of inhalant abuse.

Intoxication Signs of Inhalant Abuse

According to the CPSC, “Ordinary household products, which can be safely used for legitimate purposes, can be problematic in the hands of an inhalant abuser.” These substances are usually abused by kids and teens who want to get high and can find these substances (like cooking spray, deodorants, spray paint, permanent markers, and nail polish) in their households.

There are many signs that allow you to tell if a person is currently intoxicated by inhalants. These are:

  • “Slurred or disoriented speech”
  • Dizziness
  • Drunken appearance
  • Anxiety
  • Excitability
  • Restlessness
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny eyes or red eyes
  • Runny nose

These behaviors are telltale signs that someone is intoxicated from sniffing or huffing inhalants. The substances, when inhaled, can cause signs that seem like drunkenness: euphoria, loss or coordination, and lightheadedness. It is usually a very short high, according to the NIDA Teen, “last[ing] only a few minutes.”

Other Signs of Inhalant Abuse

There are other signs of inhalant abuse which can be clear to observers who know what to look for. Often, teens and kids who abuse inhalants will then hide the empty containers in their rooms or closets. They might also hide rags, old clothes, or other paraphernalia there as these help them abuse the substances. These can include, according to CESAR:


A variety of materials can be used for huffing, such as aerosol cans, rags, and paper bags.

  • Nitrous canisters
  • Canister crackers (tools that are used to open a canister of nitrous oxide)
  • Balloons
  • Empty bottles
  • Whipped cream containers
  • Rags
  • “Suspicious collections of household products”

In addition to these signs, there are also other strong indicators that a person is abusing inhalants. Often, someone who abuses these substances will have “paint or stains on the body or clothing” from holding the spray paint or other product. The person might also smell their clothing sleeves in order to continue huffing the inhalant’s fumes that are left there.

There will also be spots or sores near the mouth, nose, and lips from the individual holding the can there while they huff it. The individual may also act drunk when intoxicated, but if you are able to smell their breath, it will smell of chemicals or some other strange odor and not of alcohol.

Memory loss, inability to concentrate, and trouble thinking are also signs of inhalant abuse. CESAR states that inhalant use “both short-term and long-term… has been shown to cause brain damage, hindering transmission of information.”

“NIDA’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey reveals that 13.1 percent of 8th-graders have used inhalants” (NIDA). This is very dangerous as many kids and teens do not realize how severe the effects of the substances can be. While addictive and dependency-causing, inhalants can also cause death from overdose. Look for these telltale signs to discover whether or not your child is abusing inhalants, but either way, make sure you talk to them about the dangers of these substances.

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