A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

Many different drugs can be inhaled or smoked. But inhalants specifically refer to substances that are only abused through inhaling. While drugs like marijuana and tobacco are classically inhaled, they can also be chewed or consumed in oil form.
Meanwhile, certain household items, cleaning supplies, construction materials and specific chemicals – specifically solvents, aerosol sprays, gases, paints and nitrites – can produce a dangerously addictive high, while simultaneously causing damage to the brain and body over time. Huffing drugs or inhalants exist everywhere, and it’s important to catch a teen’s inhalant abuse soon in order to seek treatment.

What Does Teen Inhalant Abuse Look Like?

  • Huffing can occur with an array of products and in a variety of ways.  Teens might sniff or snort fumes from a substance (such as a permanent marker or glue); spray the substance directly into their nose (such as a spraying duster); or even place a rag, soaked with chemicals, directly into their mouths.
  • Usually the effects only last a few minutes. This encourages prolonged and repetitive use. Because of the gases found in certain household items used as inhalants, teens experience a high followed by lack of coordination, dizziness, and slurred speech.
  • Prolonged use of inhalants can lead to nausea, long-term drowsiness, and much more. Breathing in certain fumes can cause death. Many different solvents and sprays contain a large array of chemicals not meant to be inhaled directly. Some teens use a small bag to further increase the concentration of the inhalant, sometimes giving themselves a dangerous dose.

Signs of Teen Inhalant Abuse

Teen inhalant abuse treatment

Slurred speech

Teen inhalant abuse treatment


Teen inhalant abuse treatment

Lack of coordination

Teen inhalant abuse treatment


Teen inhalant abuse treatment


Teen inhalant abuse treatment

Irregular heartbeat

Commonly Abused Inhalants

Volatile Solvents – These are liquids that turn to gas in room temperatures. Common volatile solvents include glues, gasoline, paint thinners, felt-tip markers, correction fluid, and dry-cleaning fluids.

Aerosols – usually bought in the form of spray paint, cooking sprays, deodorant sprays, and various other chemical sprays.

Gases – not all gases can be abused as inhalants, evidently, but gases that can potentially cause harm and be addictive due to their psychotropic effects include chloroform, halothane, propane, butane, refrigerants, laughing gas (nitrous oxide, an anesthetic), and ether.

Nitrites – known as poppers or snappers, these were once used to treat chest pain, but have since been banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They’re blood dilators and are sometimes used as sexual enhancement drugs and as muscle relaxants. Nitrite inhalants include isoamyl nitrite, isobutyl nitrite, and cyclohexyl nitrite.

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Teen inhalant abuse treatment

What Causes Teen Inhalant Abuse?

Curiosity – the availability of inhalants and drugs ready to be abused for huffing is ubiquitous. These chemicals surround us in our everyday lives, and you would be hard-pressed to keep a teen from getting access. However, usage often begins with simple curiosity – this can, in cases where addiction is more likely due to a wide variety of factors, eventually lead to dependence.

Stress – huffing and inhalants are especially common in teenagers and children living in abject poverty or struggling to make ends meet. While it isn’t only those struggling with poverty who abuse inhalants, stress in general is a major cause of inhalant use, as well as addiction.

Genetics – a family history of addiction and substance abuse may contribute to the risk of developing an addiction to inhalants. Some people are inherently more susceptible to the addictive effects of psychoactive drugs. In some cases, the susceptibility is towards a specific drug – like alcohol – while in other cases, a history of addiction in the immediate family suggests a greater risk for addiction in general.


grade children are most likely to use inhalants, and children in general use inhalants far more than adults


of new inhalant users in 2010 were under the age of 18


year-olds are most likely to use inhalants, with 14 being the peak age

How Can I Help My Teen with Inhalant Abuse?

Build and maintain a trusting relationship – it can be very difficult to communicate with a teenager, and there’s no guaranteeing that you will always be on good terms with your child. Adolescent children can be contrarian, quick to temper, and rash. Getting them to communicate clearly and honestly and commanding respect as a parent can be hard at times. And while being too strict with your teen can alienate them and push them to do things behind your back, it’s important to draw boundaries and lay out clear rules and consequences – and follow through on them. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build a trusting relationship. You don’t have to be your teen’s friend, but you can encourage your teen to be more open with you in regard to their fears and worries. Be better at listening to your teen, just as you teach them to be better at listening to you.

Support their hobbies and interests – most teens going in and out of rehab are struggling with finding a direction in life. In fact, most teenagers in general find themselves lost and unsure of where to go and what to do. You can help reassure your teen by encouraging them to pursue subjects and activities that interest them. Giving your teen a little direction can help them focus on something new and invest their time and energy towards something that makes them happy and keeps them sane.

Learn more about inhalant abuse – do you know what kind of inhalants teens often abuse? Do you know what can and could be repurposed as an inhalant? What kind of items are usually sold or distributed mostly for recreational use, while being marketed as something else? Learning more about inhalants and addiction in general can help you keep an eye out for your teen’s behavior, so that even if something is amiss on the communication side of things, you can catch onto relapses before the progress into something worse.

What Types of Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment Are Available?

Most examples of teen inhalant abuse are a matter of mental health, rather than physical addiction. While thousands of children and teenagers use gases and aerosols to get a quick high, only a portion turn it into a debilitating habit. This isn’t so much because these drugs can cause teens to “get hooked”, but because they’re motivated to keep chasing the high.

Sadly, inhalants are extremely dangerous – more so than some other drugs. Sniffing on spray paint and ethers can cause permanent brain and organ damage, as well as sudden death. This is why treatment begins at the doctor’s office.

Medical Attention

There is no telling what kind of damage an inhalant abuse habit has done without a thorough medical examination. Physicians and addiction specialists will examine your child to determine the extent of their addiction, as well as the damage they may have caused.

Medical attention is also needed to help determine the best way for a teen to quit using inhalants, as well as whether or not they may require any medication to help stave off the symptoms of whatever damage the inhalants may have done.


Once a teen’s health is secured, it’s important to get them into therapy. Drug use of any kind can sometimes be a sign of mental health troubles (not necessarily a diagnosis of any given disorder, but a sign that a teen may be going through emotionally hard times). Furthermore, consistent, and long-term drug use can often cause or trigger mental health issues, including cases of depression and anxiety brought about by drug use.

An experienced therapist with a history in addiction medication can help teens figure out how their addiction began in the first place, what they’re going to have to do to manage their thoughts and cravings, and how they can continue to deal with life’s stresses and challenges without turning back to drugs as an answer.

Residential Treatment

Sometimes, the best course of treatment for a teen is to take some time away from everything in a specialized drug-free environment. Going through the different physical and emotional changes that accompany adolescence is hard enough, but a period of addiction can truly throw a wrench in a teen’s psychological and physical development. A dedicated residential treatment program can often be the best way for teens to recover fully from addiction.

It’s important to find the right residential treatment center to work with. Consider finding a treatment center that focuses on a multimodal, individual approach, as well as one that works with teens academically to help them keep up in school during and after their time at rehab.

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment at Paradigm Malibu

At Paradigm Malibu, inhalant abuse treatment is a gradual, multimodal process. To begin with, therapists assure that teens stop using inhalants, as the first step toward recovery. This step is harder for some teens than others, but our therapists make sure to provide them any necessary resources and support necessary for them to do so safely.

The Right Environment

As teens begin to experience the urge to relapse, we help them evaluate what triggers lead to them wanting to use. Therapists also help teens recognize what possible stressors or difficult situations in their lives may have provoked their initial use. Sometimes it starts as a curiosity, but most of the time, an addiction to inhalants stems from an emotional need for quick release. Therapists work with teens to understand the connections between their stressors, their reactions, and their behaviors, and in doing so, help them to understand what they need help with and what changes they want to make.

For the Future

Residential treatment is one part of a bigger picture. At Paradigm Malibu, our therapists teach teens new coping mechanisms, healthy habits, resources, and behaviors that will allow them to make healthier decisions in dealing with their everyday situations. Some of these habits may include techniques to deal with stress, such as meditation and exercise; techniques to address anxiety, such as breath work or talk therapy; and/or techniques to deal with negative systems of doubt or false belief systems they have about themselves. By empowering teens with these resources, they can look forward to a long-lasting recovery.

“ Addiction is a very scary thing. Its hard to run from because no matter how far you go and how well you hide, it will always find you. Paradigm Malibu taught me how to go in to the world and see a drug and not want to do it... “

– Juliet D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Inhalant Abuse

Is inhalant abuse treatment really necessary for huffing?

While it might seem like an isolated incident related mostly to childlike curiosity, some teens do go on to continue huffing glue, paint, and other inhalants well into adolescence and adulthood. If you suspect that your teen has been abusing inhalants, then it is important to speak to them about the damage they’re doing and the potential consequences their behavior can have for their health and wellbeing. If they understand and attempt to curb their behavior but find themselves unable to, it’s high time to get help.

Are inhalants as dangerous as other drugs?

Inhalants produce a high in the brain but are not as addictive as other drugs. Their danger lies in repeated use at a young age, and because they’re such a cheap and easy way to get high, they’re often a way for stressed-out teens and kids to seek out escapism when they have no other means of dealing with their problems. What inhalants lack in addictiveness compared to other drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine, they make up for in dangerousness. Repeated use of inhalants can lead to organ failure, permanent brain damage and loss of muscle control in young teens and adolescents. This can happen quite quickly. The short-term effects are highly disorienting, and dangerous in certain circumstances.

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