The number one substance abused by children 14 years or younger.

What Are Inhalants?

Inhalants are defined as breathing in poisonous chemicals that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) vapors that are classified into four major categories: solvents and gases, adhesives, aerosols and food products, and nitrates. The chemicals people inhale in order to get high are poisonous and can make them very sick. Inhalants will change the way people think and act and it can them angry or moody. People high on inhalants are more likely to get into a serious accident. Inhaling is against the law and in most places is illegal to sell or give inhalants to kids. People who inhale will be fined or go to jail. Inhalants are addictive and once hooked, it can be hard to quit. The more people use inhalants, the more damage they do to their bodies.

How Does it Affect the Body?

Regular use of inhalants can cause serious harm to vital organs and systems besides the brain. Inhalants can cause:

  • heart damage
  • liver failure
  • muscle weakness
  • aplastic anemia—the body produces fewer blood cells
  • nerve damage, which can lead to chronic pain

Damage to these organs is not reversible even when the person stops abusing inhalants.

The Truth About Inhalants


Did You Know?

  • 1 in 5 students in America has used an inhalant to get high by the time he or she reaches the 8th grade.
  • Inhalants damage the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys.
  • Inhalants starve your brain and body of oxygen. It can damage vital parts of the brain that can result in memory loss, learning problems, loss of coordination, and slurred speech.
  • Inhaling can even cause brain cancer so severe that you may never walk or talk again.
  • Inhalants pass through the lungs and quickly enter the bloodstream. Chemicals reach the brain within seconds.
  • Inhalants are the fourth most abused substance in the United States, and is most popular among youth 12-17 years old. 
  • 22% of inhalant users who died of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome were first-time users.
  • In 2012, 11.8% of 8th graders in the United States reported using inhalants in their lifetime
  • In 2013, 9.3% of Hawaii high school students have used inhalants at least once in their lifetime.


Additional Information on Inhalants