Your brain on drugs: Inhalants
Inhalants are chemical vapors that people inhale to get high. They are also known as air blasts, aimies/ames/amys, bagging, bolt, boppers, bullet, climax, glading, gluing, hardware, hippie crack, huffing, kick, medusa, pearls, poor man’s pot, poppers, quicksilver, rush, snappers, snorting, thrust, tolly, toncho, whippets, and whiteout. Common inhalants include hairspray, paints, glues, gasoline, and cleaning fluids. Since most households have these chemicals and they can be easily purchased at any store, inhalants are popular among young people. The scariest part of inhalants is that overdose and death can happen the very first time that someone inhales these chemicals. They are very damaging to the brain and body.
People who abuse inhalants breathe them in through the mouth or nose in many different ways. They may sniff or snort the fumes from a container, spray aerosols directly into the nose or mouth, or put a chemical soaked rag over their nose and mouth. They could also inhale fumes from a balloon or paper bag.
Your brain on drugs: Inhalants: The High
The high from abusing inhalants is very short, usually only lasting a few seconds. Abusers usually repeat as soon as they “come down.” Most abused inhalants depress the central nervous system, similar to alcohol. The effects are also similar to alcohol and include loss of coordination, euphoria, slurred speech, and dizziness. Users often feel uninhibited after several inhalations and can have a lingering headache. Inhalant use can also cause hallucinations and delusions.
Your brain on drugs: Inhalants: Nitrates
Nitrites are a special class of inhalants that are abused to enhance sexual pleasure and performance. They do not work in the same way as other inhalants. Unlike other types of inhalants, nitrites enhance sexual pleasure by dilating and relaxing blood vessels.
Your brain on drugs: Inhalants: Your Brain
Inhalants deprive the brain and body of oxygen, which is why death from inhalants can occur the first time they are used. The lack of oxygen can result in permanent brain damage.
Inhalant vapors often contain more than one chemical. Some of the chemicals leave the body quickly, but others are stored in the fatty tissues in the brain and nervous system. One of the fatty tissues they can be stored in is called myelin. Myelin forms the protective cover around nerve cells (neurons). Neurons in the brain and spinal cord send and receive messages that control almost everything you think and do. The chemicals from inhalants break down myelin, which can inhibit the nerve cells’ ability to transmit messages.
Inhalants are much more damaging to the brain than other drugs of abuse. They change areas of the brain that controls memory and learning more quickly than other drugs.
Your brain on drugs: Inhalants: Psychological Effects
People who abuse inhalants have a much higher rate of psychiatric disorders. Among young people who abuse inhalants, 67% had thought about committing suicide and 20% had actually attempted it. Young people who abuse inhalants also have a higher rate of major depression and addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
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