“Inhalants” refers to the vapours from toxic substances which are inhaled to reach a quick high.

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Of more than 1,000 household and other common products that could be abused as inhalants, most often used are shoe polish, glue, toluene, gasoline, lighter fluid, nitrous oxide or “whippets,” spray paint, correction fluid, cleaning fluid, amyl nitrite or “poppers,” locker room deodorizers or “rush,” and lacquer thinner or other paint solvents.

Most of these produce effects similar to anaesthetics, which slow down the body’s functions. After an initial high and loss of inhibition comes drowsiness, light-headedness and agitation.

The chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and quickly reach the brain and other organs, sometimes causing irreversible physical and mental damage.

Users inhale the chemical vapours directly from open containers (“sniffing”) or breathe the fumes from rags soaked in chemicals (“huffing”). Some spray the substance directly into the nose or mouth, or pour it onto their collar, sleeves or cuffs and sniff them periodically. In “bagging,” the user may inhale fumes from substances inside a paper or plastic bag. Bagging in a closed area greatly increases the chances of suffocation.

“Poppers” and “whippets,” sold at concerts and dance clubs, are composed of poisonous chemicals that can permanently damage the body and brain.

“I actually found myself talking to what I call ‘gas buddies’ (the hallucinations). One day I was huffing and I thought my friend died because the hallucination of him came to me. I found myself huffing not only for the visuals, but for the company of these imaginary ‘friends’ that would come to me when I would start to huff. I have been struggling with this addiction for about seven months now.” —Erik

“For three days, a friend gave me glue, free of cost. On the fourth day he asked for money from me. By then, I was addicted and I had to give him money to get a tube of glue. I needed several tubes of glue daily.” —Marty

“For fourteen and a half years, it was a steady progression from glue sniffing, gas sniffing, magic mushrooms….Then I started on cannabis. I was spending my money on as much cannabis as I could get my hands on. Then I was old enough to go into the clubs, so I started there on amphetamines and Ecstasy. I began hanging out with people who were taking heroin, and soon I was using it more and more until I was addicted. I had no idea then, the damage it would cause me later. That I would be serving one prison sentence after another, burglarizing people’s houses, stealing from my family. All the pain and heartache that I have caused was worse than stealing the material things from them.” —Jamie

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