Inhalant abuse is a less common form of drug addiction. When it is compared to the widespread nature of opioids or alcohol use, the statistics do not match up, but it is an addiction that can occur. Consistent use of inhalants over extended periods can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
Inhalants can be found in your everyday household products, such as gases, household solvents, gasoline, and cleaning products. These chemicals are hazardous to humans, even in small amounts, which makes inhalant abuse all the more dangerous.
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As dangerous as inhalant abuse can be on its own, the withdrawal symptoms produced by use can be life-threatening. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights how single or occasional use of inhalants can produce fatal effects when the chemicals move from the lungs into the bloodstream. In short, inhalants can kill a person after just one use, which is known as sudden sniffing death syndrome.
As a parent, your worry may be consumed by alcohol, prescription drugs, or marijuana. Unfortunately, you must monitor your children for any signs of inhalant abuse. These drugs are used far more than you would expect, and that is likely due to easy access to inhalants. Below, we will discuss some of the common symptoms of inhalant withdrawal and more.
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What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Inhalant Use?
In most cases, a person must develop a severe physical dependence or addiction to inhalants to cause withdrawal. In some cases, the chemicals will be abused for months or years, which will contribute to the intensity someone can expect from inhalant withdrawal symptoms. These can include hallucinations or seizures.
Since several variations of inhalants exist, withdrawal symptoms will depend on the specific type that is being abused. Some of the most common symptoms one can expect from inhalant withdrawal include:
- Runny nose or eyes
- Hand tremors
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sleep disturbance
- Rapid pulse
- Severe inhalant cravings
Most of these symptoms should subside in a few days as the cravings disappear. Unfortunately, however, it is possible that these turn into hallucinations of seizures, which will require intensive medical supervision to overcome safely.
As the withdrawal period progresses, you may experience other symptoms, which include:
- Continued cravings for inhalants
Once you’ve successfully abstained from inhalants, the body will experience psychological and physical symptoms of withdrawal until the chemicals in your body are balanced. The severity of your addiction, as well as the length of use, will determine the severity of these symptoms. In general, the longer inhalants are abused, the more difficult and dangerous you can expect the detox period to be. In the most severe cases, you can expect convulsions.
What Are the Stages of the Inhalant Withdrawal Timeline?
The most common factors that will dictate the withdrawal process will include:
- How long you might have used inhalants
- How much and how often you used inhalants
- Your current overall physical and mental health
- Using other drugs in conjunction with inhalants
- Underlying mental health conditions
- Substance abuse treatment attempts/ withdrawal experience
- Any stress from friends and family
- The level of support around you
The acute withdrawal timeline will consist of:
Acute inhalant intoxication: This part of withdrawal is commonly viewed as the shortest stage of it. It is when users seek pleasure from inhaling chemicals from bags, containers, huff vapors, and continue using despite the inherent risks.
2-5 days: During this stage, withdrawal symptoms from inhalants will be severe once you’ve stopped using the substance. These symptoms can persist for up to a month, and in some cases, longer. These include:
- Muscle cramps
- Stomach pain
Late withdrawal stage: Acute symptoms may begin to subside at this point, but you can still expect to experience lasting effects for up to a week after the last use. These include:
- Inability to process specific cognitive functions
- Severe cravings for inhalants
Why Should I Detox?
Unfortunately, the withdrawal process, when it relates to inhalants, can be agonizing. The physical and mental aspects of detox can be enough to push someone back into inhalant use.
To prevent a relapse from occurring, addiction specialists strongly urge a person to detox at a professional treatment center. These centers provide medical professionals who will block your access to inhalants.
If you are struggling with inhalant addiction, you must start treatment immediately after you stop using. Currently, a tapering process does not exist, and since short-term adverse effects are involved, you must be in the presence of medical professionals. You will be given medication to ease the symptoms of nausea or sleeplessness. The first step in the process toward sobriety is medical detox. You will be assessed to determine the next level of care.
What Is the Next Treatment Step?
To overcome your dependence on inhalants, you need to follow through with the continuum of care. It requires a lot of strength to overcome, but committing yourself to a healthy life will improve all areas of your existence.
Most people who struggle with dependence to inhalants will be placed into residential treatment. It will allow them to focus on addressing their core needs and healing without distraction.
During this phase, therapies will teach you how to cope with triggers, and specialists will help you devise a relapse prevention plan. If you or someone you know is currently struggling with inhalant abuse, you must reach out for help today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification
Inhalants. (n.d.). from http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/inhalants.asp
Inhalant Abuse. (n.d.). from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/15742-inhalant-abuse
About inhalants. (2002, February). from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2794702/
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What are the short- and long-term effects of inhalant use? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/what-are-short-long-term-effects-inhalant-use
American Society of Addiction Medicine. What are the ASAM Levels of Care? from https://www.asamcontinuum.org/knowledgebase/what-are-the-asam-levels-of-care/