Drug abuse and addiction / Category / Emile Du Toit / May 5th 2014

Types of inhalants

Liquids that vaporize at room temperatures

These are found in numerous easily available household and industrial products including paint thinners, degreasers, gasoline, glues, correction fluids and felt-tip marker fluids.


Nitrite is a chemical compound found in food preservatives, leather cleaner, room deodorizers, etc. Nitrites are considered a special class of inhalants which act directly on the central nervous system, brain and spinal cord. They are used mainly as sexual enhancers and are commonly known as “poppers” or “snappers.


These include spray paints, deodorant and hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays for cooking and fabric protector sprays.


These include medical anesthetics (ether, chloroform and nitrous oxide, commonly called “laughing gas”), butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers and refrigerants.

Short-term effects of using inhalants

Short-term effects of inhalant use include the following:

  • nosebleeds
  • decreased the heart rate
  • decreased respiratory rate
  • fatigue
  • lack of coordination
  • nausea, sneezing, coughing
  • loss of appetite
  • impaired judgment.
  • amyl and butyl nitrite cause rapid pulse, headaches, and involuntary passing of urine and faeces

  • Long-term effects of using inhalants

    Long-term effects of inhalant use include the following:

  • permanent brain and nervous-system damage
  • hepatitis
  • weight loss
  • fatigue
  • disorientation
  • violent behaviour
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • muscle fatigue
  • unconsciousness
  • death, primarily through suffocation (by displacing the oxygen in the lungs or by depressing the central nervous system to the point that breathing stops)
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