Family Health|Kids and Teens
adult|inhalent use|substance abuse|teenager

Inhalant Use

Last Updated May 2024 | This article was created by editorial staff and reviewed by Daron Gersch, MD, FAAFP

What is inhalant use?

Inhalant use is a form of substance use disorder. It is also called “huffing.” It involves breathing in or sniffing common household or workplace products on purpose to “get high.” Almost any aerosol or liquid solvent can be used as an inhalant. Some of the slang terms used for this form of substance use disorder include bold, laughing gas, poppers, rush, snappers, and whippets. Examples of common household products include:

  • Oven cleaner
  • Model glue
  • Spray paint
  • Correction fluid (for example, Liquid Paper)
  • Paint thinner
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Nail polish remover
  • Rubber cement
  • Gasoline
  • Whipped cream gas
  • Vegetable sprays
  • Deodorant sprays
  • Lighter gas
  • Laughing gas
  • Nitrate medicine (prescription medicine for chest pain)

Teenagers are the most common users of inhalants. Inhalants are easy to get because they are legal and cheap. Teenagers often try inhalants before they try alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs.

Symptoms of inhalant use

It can be hard to recognize the signs of inhalant use. Teenagers who use inhalants may show some of the following signs.

  • Bloodshot or dilated eyes
  • Chapped lips or face
  • Runny nose or frequent nosebleeds
  • Chemical-like odor on their breath
  • Paint stains on their hands and clothes
  • Appearing drunk or high
  • Slurred speech

Your child may complain of symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor memory
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vision problems

What are the most common ways to use inhalants?

There are several ways that a person can use inhalants.

  • Snorting is when you breathe in the fumes of a product directly from its container.
  • Huffing is when you soak a rag in the product, put the rag over your nose, and inhale.
  • Bagging is when you pour the product into a bag, hold it over your mouth and nose, and inhale.

How is inhalant use diagnosed?

If you think your child is using inhalants, talk to them. Be honest and open. Tell them how dangerous it is. Let your child know that you are concerned and want to help.

If you find your child using inhalants, get them medical help right away. If they lose consciousness, call 911.

Can inhalant use be prevented or avoided?

The best way to help prevent inhalant use is to talk to your child about it early on. Do not assume that your child knows what it is or that it’s wrong. Talk to your child about the dangers and risks of trying inhalants and drugs. It can help them make the right decision. Minimize or avoid excess storage of things like paint thinners, gasoline, oven cleaner, spray paints, and other things you don’t need on a regular basis.

Inhalant use treatment

Minor symptoms of inhalant use can be treated with over-the-counter medicines. Major symptoms, such as heart arrhythmias, require proper medical action.

The most important part of treatment is to stop the abuse. This requires your child to abstain from using inhalants. Your child may need to see a counselor or attend a support or rehab program.

Living with inhalant use

Inhalant use can put your child at greater risk of being injured or in an accident. This is especially true if your child tries to drive while high on an inhalant. People who abuse inhalants are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs.

Inhaling solvents can cause your heart to beat irregularly, too fast, or too hard. In some cases, it can lead to a heart arrhythmia. In severe cases, it can cause sudden death. Inhalants can cause brain damage by blocking oxygen flow to your brain and other organs. Continued abuse can seriously harm or kill your child.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What are the dangers of inhalant use?
  • What are some common household items that are inhaled?
  • How can I tell if my child is using inhalants?
  • How can I prevent my child from using inhalants?
  • How can I start a discussion about inhalant use with my child


National Institute on Drug Abuse: Inhalants

Partnership to End Addiction: What are Inhalants?

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Inhalant Abuse

@media print { @page { padding-left: 15px !important; padding-right: 15px !important; } #pf-body #pf-header-img { max-width: 250px!important; margin: 0px auto!important; text-align: center!important; align-items: center!important; align-self: center!important; display: flex!important; }