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Overview of Inhalants detox

Some drugs do not typically cause physical dependence, but can be extremely psychologically addicting and dangerous. Inhalants are type of drug that have been around for many years but gained popularity and availability in the 20th century. There are many different inhalants, and they consist usually of products sold over the counter that have another legitimate purpose, but can be contained and inhaled to produce a high. These drugs do not usually cause dependence like heroin, but can be just as dangerous. They produce a powerful high with euphoria and mild hallucinations that can leave the user craving more. Inhalants have serious side effects. They can cause brain damage and sudden death. Because of their addictive nature one may find themselves needing inhalant detox to get off the drug for good.

Inhalants are typically household solvents. They include nitrous oxide found in whipped cream cans, propellants, nail polish, adhesives, gasoline, computer duster, markers, paint, cleaning supplies, among many others. Inhalant abuse is difficult to prevent and control because they can be found in so many products with legitimate value. Inhalants are most commonly abused by youth and adolescents. Because of this, some jurisdictions have limited sale of certain products to those over the age of 18. Some inhalants can cause sudden death. Computer duster is released as a freezing cold gas that can lead to severe complications when inhaled. Gasoline and paint are also extremely dangerous and sudden death has been recorded.

Nitrous is one of the most prevalent inhalants. This is because it causes a more intense high and is found in many different products. They also sell small cartridges of nitrous that are used for whipped cream containers in restaurants, or in air powered rifles. These cartridges can be bought and cracked open for recreational use. The gas is inhaled directly into the mouth, or into a rubber balloon or a bag. One would then inhale the gas from the balloon over and over, as if trying to hyperventilate themselves. This is extremely dangerous because it can lead to a lack of oxygen in the brain, this is called hypoxia. Hypoxia can easily be fatal. Hypoxia is the leading cause of death with Inhalant users.

In the 1970s there was a big rise in inhalant use, specifically solvent glue. This was referred to as “sniffing glue” and was prevalent among youth. Glue inhaling became associated with the punk subculture, transients, and homeless. This was so common even the popular punk rock band The Ramones made a hit song “I Just Want To Sniff Some Glue”. Since the 1970s there has been a major bush to change these products and find alternative chemicals to prevent abuse. Many solvent glues are no longer common, and most markers no longer contain chemicals that can be abused. Though efforts have been there are still an overwhelming prevalence of inhalants in common grocery stores.

There are some medical uses for some inhalants. Nitrous oxide is commonly used as an anesthetic. Typically it used during oral surgery, and the gas is mixed with oxygen to prevent hypoxia. On the street Nitrous does not contain oxygen so is much more dangerous. Sometimes people do not know there is a difference, and may say “it is what they use at the dentist”, when this is just partially true. This gives some the idea that nitrous use is safe.

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How Detoxing From Inhalants works

Most inhalants are not physically addicting, and they do not stay in the body longer than a few minutes. The point of inhalant detox is to separate the individual from the drug and give them comfort medications if need be. In some cases inhalants can cause dependence, which can result in seizures when the drug is not being used. This calls for anticonvulsive medication. Inhalants also deplete pleasure chemicals in the brain, which can leave a person depressed and unmotivated. This can lead to relapse or a decision that recovery is pointless. When trying to quit a substance it can be difficult to think clearly, and one can easily change their mind about getting clean and sober. This is why inpatient medical detox can be so useful.

An inhalant detox it is typically a semi locked down facility. It is harder to check out once you are checked in, giving a buffer of time if a person decides they want to leave, they may change their mind again during the checkout process. In detox one will be given medication to assist with restlessness, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. A person can also be checked for any bodily or mental harm caused by inhalant abuse. This can lead to effective treatment and a higher probability of long term recovery.

WHAT DOES THE Inhalants DETOX PROCESS LOOK LIKE?

When one checks into detox the first step is an evaluation. One will be asked about their substance abuse, their history, be given blood tests, and a treatment plan. A room is assigned to the patient where they will stay for 3-10 days. The patient is allowed to socialize with other patients and often there are group therapy sessions or 12-fellowship meetings. Often these are optional, because often rest and sleep if very important during the detox process.

In detox a variety of medications can be prescribed to reduce symptoms. There is no taper in inhalant detox, but there are drugs to assist with psychological symptoms. Benzodiazepines, clonidine, or other drugs can assist with restlessness, anxiety, and sleep. There are also other non narcotic drugs for sleep and depression. Depression is a common symptoms because inhalants cause a strong euphoric high. This affects the brain’s ability to feel pleasure, which can leave a person feeling hopeless. Antidepressants can be prescribed longer to assist with long term recovery.

There are also commonly therapists in medical detox. They can provide a treatment plan for after detox, education on healthy coping skills, and help with developing a strong support network. Talk therapy can also be highly beneficial with depression and anxiety.

Because inhalants are not usually physically addicting and they leave the body quickly, there are not physical withdrawal symptoms like heroin or alcohol detox. Inhalant withdrawals are usually psychological in nature, which can still be just as painful. After using inhalants for a long period of time the functioning of one’s brain is altered. This can cause severe cravings, depression, lack of concentration, and sleep problems, and possibly seizures. Most of these symptoms are temporary, and may only last the first couple weeks of stopping inhalant abuse. Some symptoms can be a result of permanent brain damage. There are many other chemicals in most inhalants which can cause harm to the body and brain. Also, a consistent lack of oxygen can cause permanent brain damage. This may call for long term treatment and medication to live a normal life.

During and after the detox most medication will be limited until they are no longer needed. After about 2 weeks withdrawal symptoms will no longer be felt, unless one is suffering from PAWS, or post acute withdrawal syndrome. PAWS causes problems concentrating, depression, and anxiety, and may take months or years before it completely goes away.

Inhalants Detox Withdrawals

Pill Bottle Icon Often used by adolescents
Pill Icon Lack of oxygen can kill brain cells and cause vitamin deficiencies
Syringe Icon Can lead to suffocation

Because inhalants are not usually physically addicting and they leave the body quickly, there are not physical withdrawal symptoms like heroin or alcohol detox. Inhalant withdrawals are usually psychological in nature, which can still be just as painful. After using inhalants for a long period of time the functioning of one’s brain is altered. This can cause severe cravings, depression, lack of concentration, and sleep problems, and possibly seizures. Most of these symptoms are temporary, and may only last the first couple weeks of stopping inhalant abuse. Some symptoms can be a result of permanent brain damage. There are many other chemicals in most inhalants which can cause harm to the body and brain. Also, a consistent lack of oxygen can cause permanent brain damage. This may call for long term treatment and medication to live a normal life.

During and after the detox most medication will be limited until they are no longer needed. After about 2 weeks withdrawal symptoms will no longer be felt, unless one is suffering from PAWS, or post acute withdrawal syndrome. PAWS causes problems concentrating, depression, and anxiety, and may take months or years before it completely goes away.

List of Inhalants Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Agitation
  • Delusions
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Trouble concentrating
  • In rare cases, seizures

Can you detox from Inhalants at home?

Inhalant detox has a chance of being fatal, so it is never recommended to detox from inhalants at home. Though psychological symptoms are the most common, many cases have been recorded of physical symptoms and seizures. One should never risk having seizures while at home, regardless of how much inhalants they were using. It is best to get medical advice when planning to stop using inhalants.

Not only is it much more comfortable to detox in facility, it is far more safe. Vitals are checked 24/7 and medical staff is always on site. They can make sure that one is getting the proper level of care. Therapists are also on site to help develop a plan for after detox. They can also test for deficiencies or brain damage they may have from long term inhalant abuse. Talk therapy is highly beneficial. In detox a person is often very depressed, agitated, or anxious. Talking with a therapist can relive some of these symptoms and reassure a patient they are in the right place to stop using drugs.

Because cravings can be so strong, one may become desperate or agitated while detoxing. If one is at home they may make impulsive decisions about using again or committing crime. One may also feel suicidal during detox, which can be very dangerous. It is best to be in a medical environment when coming off of any drug. Proper detox and treatment shows much higher rates of recovery than people who simply try to quit on their own. In treatment one can learn healthy coping skills and a plan for staying clean.

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How long does it take to detox from Inhalants

Because inhalant detox is mostly psychological in nature it can take longer to resolve symptoms. The detox program usually last 3-10 days, but a person may be advised to see a doctor for following weeks. After about a week most of the symptoms will begin to fade, but will linger for weeks or even months. Stronger medications can be used in a controlled environment, but after detox non narcotic medication can be used.

Detox length depends on each person. It all depends on the amount of use and a person’s metabolism. One can expect to feel normal around one month after quitting inhalants. In some cases post-acute withdrawal symptoms occur. This is referred to as PAWS. PAWS can last weeks, months, or years after detox. The condition can be treated with medication, therapy, and coping skills. The most common long term symptoms are trouble concentrating and bouts of depression. It is important to keep in constant contact with your doctor to discuss any lingering symptoms. There is always something that can be done to prevent relapse.

  • More than 22 million Americans have tried using inhalants recreationally
  • 22% of people who died from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome had no prior experience huffing inhalants
  • By the time students in the US reach eighth grade, 1 in 5 will have tried inhalants before
  • Among youth aged 12-14, Inhalants are the most abused substance