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Inhalants addiction symptoms and treatment

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Inhalants addiction symptoms and treatment

Inhalants addiction, or inhalant use disorder, is a type of substance use disorder (SUD) wherein a person has a compulsive need to keep using inhalants despite harmful consequences. Inhalants are substances with psychoactive effects whose main administration route is inhaling. Adolescents and young adults are more likely to develop this type of addiction than older individuals.

Symptoms of inhalant addiction include strong cravings, developing tolerance quickly, spending a lot of time and money on inhalants, neglecting other people and activities or responsibilities in favor of inhalant use, and changing social circles. One of the biggest inhalant addiction symptoms is continuing to use inhalants regardless of physical and other behavioral and psychological effects. Physical effects of inhalant addiction include organ damage, irregular heartbeat, hearing loss, bone marrow damage, and brain damage.

Treatments for inhalant abuse include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interventions, support groups, and engaging activities. Inhalant user needs a strong support system to achieve successful recovery.

household inhalants

What are Inhalants?

Inhalants are volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that people inhale to experience mild-altering and psychoactive effects. Even though many addictive substances can be inhaled, the term inhalants refer only to those products whose main administration route is inhalation and nothing else.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, inhalants include gases, aerosol sprays, volatile solvents (liquids that turn into a gas at room temperature), and nitrites.

Gas sources include household or commercial products such as propane tanks, butane lighters, and whippets (whipped cream aerosol dispensers). Other gases are those used for anesthesia, such as chloroform, ether, and nitrous oxide.

On the other hand, aerosol sprays include spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, vegetable oil sprays, and aerosol computer cleaning sprays.

Volatile solvents used as inhalants include industrial or household products such as lighter fluids, gasoline, dry-cleaning fluids, and paint thinners or removers. Other solvents include art or office supply solvents such as correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluids, glue, and electronic contact lenses.

And finally, nitrites are often sold in bottles labeled as liquid aroma, video head cleaner, leather cleaner, or room odorizer.

People use inhalants by breathing in (inhaling) fumes through their mouth or nose in several ways. These include huffing from an inhalant-soaked rag stuffed in the mouth, snorting or sniffing fumes, spraying aerosols directly into the mouth or nose, and bagging or inhaling the fumes from substances deposited or sprayed inside a paper or plastic bag.

In 2020, about 2.4 million people aged 12 or older reported using inhalants in the past 12 months. In the same year, 215,000 from the abovementioned age group had an inhalant use disorder.

symptoms of inhalant addiction

What are the factors that may increase your chances of developing an Inhalant addiction?

Factors that may increase the chances of developing an inhalant addiction are listed below.

  • Personal history of substance abuse and mental illnesses 
  • Family history of substance use disorders
  • Behavioral disinhibition
  • Easy access to, or availability, inhalant gases
  • Younger age
  • Homelessness
  • Socializing with other persons who use inhalants or other substances
  • Childhood trauma, neglect, and abuse

What are the Inhalant addiction symptoms?

Inhalant abuse symptoms can be categorized into behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial. The inhalant addiction symptoms are listed below.

  • Behavioral symptoms: difficulty reducing and stopping inhalant use, using inhalants more often and in larger quantities, neglecting school or work in favor of inhalant use, spending a lot of time thinking about, obtaining, and using inhalants
  • Physical symptoms: dizziness, tremors or spasms, weakness, vision problems, slurred speech, impaired coordination, difficulty walking, fatigue, slowed movements, losing consciousness, and developing a tolerance
  • Cognitive symptoms: strong cravings for inhalants
  • Psychosocial symptoms: continuing to use inhalants despite problems they cause and relationships they jeopardize

inhalant addiction impacts

What are the common complications and impacts of Inhalant addiction on your health?

The common complications and impacts of inhalant addiction on your health are listed below.

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Digestive problems
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Breathing problems
  • Lung damage 
  • Liver damage
  • Limb spasms
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Hearing loss

What are the treatments that your doctor may recommend if you are diagnosed with an Inhalant addiction?

The treatments that your doctor may recommend if you are diagnosed with an inhalant addiction are listed below.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interventions
  • Family Counseling
  • Activity and engagement programs
  • Support groups and 12-step programs

1. Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that treats addiction by helping patients manage their thought and behavior patterns. In inhalant addiction treatment, CBT teaches patients to deal with stressful situations in a healthy manner, helps them cope with cravings, and enables them to resist offers to use these substances.

2. Motivational interventions

Motivational interventions help patients get motivated to make a positive change in their life. The cornerstone of this approach is motivational interviewing (MI), which empowers people to change by coming to their conclusions. People with addiction often lack the motivation to start the recovery process.

Sometimes it’s due to withdrawal symptoms, but in other cases, a person believes they won’t make it. Motivational interviewing is a collaborative process wherein a therapist helps a patient define their priorities and values that motivate them to take a step toward recovery.

Besides motivational interviewing, contingency management (CM) is also a common practice. The main goal of CM is to use incentives such as prizes, vouchers, and rewards to increase motivation to make positive changes.

3. Family counseling

Family counseling is a type of psychotherapy that helps family members resolve conflicts and improve communication. Since inhalants addiction negatively affects family dynamics, this type of therapy helps resolve that issue.

At the same time, many people start experimenting with substances (and become addicted later) due to problematic household dynamics, lack of discipline or overly strict parents, and being exposed to substances at an early age. Sometimes childhood traumas such as abuse and neglect pave the way to addiction.

Family therapy addresses these specific issues. In addiction treatment, this type of therapy is necessary to ensure a patient has a strong support system to overcome their substance use disorder.

4. Activity and engagement programs

Activity and engagement programs function to offer an alternative choice to the use of inhalants. They also help patients adopt new skills and social experiences. These programs rely on fun and interesting activities such as hikes, movie nights, and dancing.

Not only are these activities fun, but they also support recovery and help patients maintain sobriety. They show that there’s a lot a person can do instead of using inhalants. This is particularly useful since persons with inhalants addiction tend to lose interest in other activities and hobbies.

5. Support groups and 12-step programs

12 step program

Support groups and 12-step programs provide support and encouragement to people with inhalant addiction. They go hand in hand with other treatment methods. Support groups and 12-step programs provide more structure that keeps a person navigated to stay on the right track.

The biggest significance of these groups is that they gather people who have the same problem. In this case, that problem is inhalant addiction. People share their experiences during recovery and the challenges or victories they encounter when maintaining sobriety. That way, they can help other people and also receive their support.

Members of support groups meet in community centers, online, or in other places such as churches, local libraries, and hospitals. Online meetings are also an option.

Which Inhalant addiction treatment is the most effective?

treatment for inhalant addiction

The most effective inhalant addiction treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. What makes CBT so important is the premise that our thoughts and emotions influence our behavior.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps patients detect negative thoughts and behavioral patterns and replace them with more positive alternatives. Patients learn to identify triggers, i.e., situations when they’re most likely to use inhalants. Then, they get better at avoiding these situations or changing the way they cope. Healthier coping mechanisms are a major result of regular CBT sessions.

Studies show that CBT can reduce substance use and promote recovery in persons with substance use disorders. The Behaviour Research and Therapy published a paper that explained that increased coping skills are the main mechanism of action through which CBT works.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy also helps patients manage underlying mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

In other words, CBT is the best treatment option for inhalant addiction because it helps patients overcome their SUD, improve mental health, and adopt healthier habits.