Inhalants are a diverse group of volatile substances whose vapors, or fumes, can be inhaled to produce psychoactive (mind-altering) effects. They include common household substances such as glues, shoe polish, and cleaning fluids. Other products used as inhalants include spray paint, gasoline, lighter fluid and nitrous oxide. Users may refer to inhalants as laughing gas, poppers, snappers, or whippets. Common types of inhalants include volatile solvents, aerosols, gases and nitrites:
Inhalant users may sniff or snort fumes from a container, spray directly into the nose or mouth, or breathe from an inhalant-soaked rag. Users may also inhale fumes from a balloon or a plastic or paper bag that contains an inhalant. Misuse of inhalants is often called huffing. The intoxication produced by inhalants tends to last just a few minutes; therefore, users often try to extend the 'high' by continuing to inhale repeatedly over
several hours. Inhalants produce effects similar to those of anesthesia. They slow the body down, produce a numbing feeling and can cause unconsciousness.
Inhaling large amounts of these chemicals can cause heart failure, suffocation, convulsions, seizures and coma. Furthermore, sniffing highly concentrated amounts of these chemicals can directly induce heart failure and death within minutes of a session of repeated inhalation, also known as 'sudden sniffing death.' High concentrations of inhalants can also displace oxygen in the lungs, causing the user to lose consciousness and stop breathing. Other than death, inhalants may also cause harmful and irreversible effects such as hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, and bone marrow damage.