Inhalant Use Disorder

inhalents use disorder blog post

Preventing Inhalant Use Disorder in Teens  

Inhalant use disorder is a rampant problem, especially among young people. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020 saw a 64% increase in inhalant use for 8th graders. 

Many healthcare professionals attribute this unprecedented rise in inhalant abuse to the pandemic. Regardless of why teens have turned to huffing, the fact is the overwhelming increase in use is a serious problem. 

Inhalants: The Drug in Everyone’s Home.

What are inhalants? First, think of everything in your home that comes in an aerosol can as an inhalant. Next, think of substances that have a very strong odor like hand sanitizer, glue and solvents. Now you’re getting the idea. 

There are thousands of everyday products that can be used as inhalants. Check out this list of some common home products to create your home ‘inhalant inventory’:

  • Hand sanitizers
  • Hair spray
  • Aerosol deodorants
  • Air fresheners
  • Glue
  • Nail polish & polish remover
  • Cooking sprays
  • Static cling sprays
  • Computer keyboard spray 
  • Spray paint
  • Gasoline
  • Solvents
  • Lighter fluid
  • Cleaning products

Take notice if you start running out of these items faster than usual.  Accompanying paraphernalia may include paper bags, plastic bags, or balloons that are used to concentrate aerosol contents before inhaling. 

Signs of abuse may include dark circles under the eyes, a coating on the tongue, agitation, dizziness, loss of coordination, and slurred speech. Because the effects last only minutes, people use the drug multiple times over a short period.

Take a minute to review all four categories of  inhalants –  liquids, sprays, gases, and nitrites 

Long term effects of inhalant use disorder include:

  • Long term liver and kidney damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Limb spasms 
  • Brain damage delayed behavioral development (from brain problems)
  • Brain damage
  • Sudden Sniffing Death from first use

Despite the danger, inhalant misuse is hardly talked about among adults. As an example, consider the parent, a journalist, who published an ‘amusing’ story of finding her teen son and his friends dancing around in a room that was a haze created by cans and cans of a popular deodorant spray. “Oh those crazy kids” described her reaction. Even a warning phone call to the journalist fell on deaf ears because her son was a ‘good kid’ and the teens were having ‘innocent fun’. 

Our teens are innocent and truly don’t understand the risks of a product like hair spray or deodorant spray being misused with the risk of brain damage or death. This Parents Guide to Inhalant Prevention can help spread awareness. 

The Inhalant Every Parent Needs to Know About Now!

The most popular inhalant is nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas. Likely you immediately associate it with dental anesthesia. However, nitrous oxide (N20) may be sold in gas stations, convenience stores and party stores. It is even sold on Amazon.  How does that happen?

It is all happening under the guise of being associated with a food product. The small N20 canisters called whippets , are supposedly sold to charge refillable whipped cream dispensers. These restaurant style dispensers aren’t something most people have in their home, so there is no reason for gas stations and party stores to stock this item for legitimate sale.  In one area of Detroit, where gas stations, party stores and marijuana shops sell them, over 40,000 discarded whippet canisters were cleaned off of streets and parking lots in a six-month period.  

pic of whippets and balloons on street

The litter of whippets in Detroit is getting to be a larger concern. Now the same outlets are selling large tanks of N20 that contain as much as nitrous oxide a 100 whippets.  These tanks pose even greater health risks for those who misuse N20 and as litter the tanks pose a road and environmental hazard of another dimension. 

Pic of tank on street
Discarded whippet canisters can be a sign of inhalant use disorder

These industrial size N20 tanks have long been a fixture at outdoor concerts. Vendors fill balloons with the gas and sell the gas-filled balloons in plain sight for concert-goers to inhale.   Combining a good time with the poisonous nitrous oxide has created the misconception it is just ‘fun’ particularly among teens and young adults.

The ultimate price that may be paid by misuse of N20 is heartbreakingly told in a 2 minute audio composite of real life consequences   ‘My Story’   Listen with your teen.

Long-term side effects of whippets take years to identify. It is important that if you suspect you act quickly. At CANDLE Inc, we believe that the solution to addiction is prevention. To prevent Inhalant Use Disorder, we empower young people with awareness and healthy coping skills. We do this through  our Reality Tour parent/child drug prevention program. 

my story video preview

[dt_sc_callout_box type=”type2″ button_text=”GET HELP NOW” link=”” target=”_blank”]

If you’re concerned that your loved one is using inhalants, get help now.


[dt_sc_callout_box type=”type2″ button_text=”INHALANT TOOLKIT” link=”” target=”_blank”]

Take action to prevent inhalant abuse in your home, school, and community. Access an inhalant toolkit and learn more.



Transcript of ‘My Story’ audio:

“Addiction is like a subtle, slow dance with life. What seems ordinary because everyone is doing it begins to seep in through the, that must be okay. Cracking your brain whip. It seemed to be everywhere. Empty canisters litter, the streets, evidence of the partying that goes on the discarded fun – doesn’t look fun anymore.

When I see hundreds of them lying around the park, am I a part of that litter? I thought it was safe. Whippets. The name even sounds like fun. Dentists, call it laughing gas and use it as the anesthetic. That sounded safe enough to me after all, it’s not like I’d be using serious stuff like cocaine, LSD, or heroin.

These little canisters are used to make whipped cream. How can they hurt me? Looking back these are all the things I told myself to prove it was no big deal. Now I need to tell you how the lies I’d been telling myself, turned out. I was a 20 year old girl with lots of good times ahead of me. Life was exciting.

Whippets changed that. I thought each deep inhale was a safe ‘nod’ to my wild side and a way to fit in and have fun with my friends. It turned out that each inhale was an assault on my nervous system. In my spinal cord I couldn’t feel what was happening until it was too late. Even when my fingers started to fumble and I couldn’t button my shirt, I didn’t make the connection.

But soon after that, my legs didn’t want to move right. I had trouble walking. That’s when I found myself in a doctor’s office having to answer yes to his question. Do you use any recreational drugs? Once I admitted to using 15 whippets a day, my doctor knew immediately what was wrong. Tests proved his suspicion.

I had nerve damage to my spinal cord from inhaling the nitrous oxide gas in whippets. This was going to be permanent. In my head, I kept going over the lies I had told myself. Whippets are sold in all the gas stations in my neighborhood so they must be legal and safe. Right? At last summer’s concert in the park, you could buy balloons filled with nitrous oxide.

It was all part of the fun. I felt that happy giggly high with my friends, but just for a few minutes, not long enough to do any harm?  Now I need a cane to walk. Those few minutes of a high will last the rest of my life. I sacrificed my health, my ability to walk. Where was the harm? Why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t someone warn me?

Don’t lie to yourself. Listen to the truth in my story. See beyond the next 10 minutes.


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Norma Norris

Norma Norris, Reality Tour developer and Executive Director of CANDLE, Inc., has been a civic leader throughout the years. Norma and her husband Charles raised their three sons in Butler, PA. In an effort to preserve the integrity of her community when heroin first appeared in early 2000, Norma created the parent/child drug prevention program called Reality Tour.

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