Inhalants are breathable chemicals that are psychoactive (mind-altering) and central nervous system depressants. Three distinct categories of inhalants are nitrous oxide, volatile nitrites and petroleum distillates.


Cause sudden sniffing death, brain damage and irregular heartbeat

Also known as whippets, poppers, laughing gas, nitrous oxide, amyl nitrate, butyl nitrite and rush

Found in garages and cleaning closets in every home and appear as

household solvents


model airplane glue

nail polish remover

hair spray


cleaning fluids


whipped cream chargers


and countless others

Accompanying paraphernalia includes

paper or plastic bags



whipped cream canisters


Inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics by slowing body functions, reducing inhibitions and stimulating the imagination. In moderate doses inhalants may cause nausea, sneezing, coughing, nosebleeds, fatigue, lack of coordination and loss of appetite. “Sudden sniffing death” may result in even the healthiest of users if the brain is deprived of enough oxygen.

Huffing and sniffing highly concentrated substances can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms and lead to heart failure and death within minutes of use. Prolonged abuse of inhalants can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, which greatly impairs physical and mental capabilities. In addition, long-term use damages the liver, kidneys, blood and bone marrow.

Parents should be aware that many common household products can be abused as inhalants. If children are present in the home, adult supervision of the use, storage and disposal of these products is vital.

What inhalants do to your

Brain—Cause the fatty tissue in the brain to deteriorate, resulting in severe headaches, hallucinations, hand and foot numbness and spasms in arms and legs.

Heart—Starve the body of oxygen and force the heart to beat irregularly and more rapidly.

Liver—Chronic use can produce significant liver damage. Many syndromes caused by repeated or prolonged abuse are irreversible.

Lungs—Can cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing ceases.