Talk with your kids about inhalants
Inhalant Abuse
Dangers and Effects
Warning Signs of Abuse


Disease Prevention
Poison Prevention
Slang Terms
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One Huff can Kill You

Talk with your kids about inhalants

Inhalant Abuse: It's Deadly. Inhalant abuse can kill. It can kill suddenly, and it can kill those who sniff for the first time.

Every year, young people in this country die of inhalant abuse. Hundreds suffer severe consequences, including permanent brain damage, loss of muscle control, and destruction of the heart, blood, kidney, liver, and bone marrow.

Today more than 1,000 different products are commonly abused. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 1996 that one in five American teenagers have used inhalants to get high.

Many youngsters say they begin sniffing when they're in grade school. They start because they feel these substances can't hurt them, because of peer pressure, or because of low self-esteem. Once hooked, these victims find it a tough habit to break.

What can you do to prevent inhalant abuse?

One of the most important steps you can take is to talk with your children or other youngsters about not experimenting even a first time with inhalants. In addition, talk with your children's teachers, guidance counselors, and coaches. By discussing this problem openly and stressing the devastating consequences of inhalant abuse, you can help prevent a tragedy.

1. Find good times to talk when you won't be interrupted by phones, TV or visitors.

2. Tell your children that you love them and that their safety is your number one priority. Tell them again…and again…and again.

3. Discuss what poisons are, and what effects they have on a healthy body.

4. Talk about oxygen and how it is needed to sustain life.

5. Discuss the purpose of common household and commercial products. Explain that they can kill if used the wrong way.

6. If your child helps with cleaning, read product labels together. Demonstrate how to use them according to the directions.

7. Open windows or use fans when products call for proper ventilation.

8. Ask what your child knows about Inhalant Abuse or is aware of other kids using products.

9. Reinforce peer resistance skills, that sniffing products is not the way to fit in and the “high” could come with a high cost.

10. Monitor their activities. Know their friends and their friends’ parents. Know where they meet to “hang out.”

11. Keep track of inhalants in your home. Where are they? Are they being used up too quickly?

12. Above all, do your best to make it safe for them to talk to you about their friends or about their own substance abuse or concerns. You must be prepared to help without criticism if they are to feel safe coming to you.

For questions contact: National Inhalant Prevention Coalition: 1-800-269-4237

The first time could be the last time.

Most teens could probably tell you what the top three abused substances are among teenagers. Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. However, one that is considered equally, if not more addictive and deadly, would not be considered dangerous by most teenagers, unless they lost a friend to it.

Inhaling dangerous products is becoming one of the most widespread problems in the country. It is as popular as marijuana with young people. Every month almost 500,000 kids 12 to 17 use inhalants to get killer highs. Among Oregon 8th graders reported in the 2007 Healthy Teen Survey, over 6 percent used an inhalant in the last 30 days, 7.3 percent of the girls. In another survey, 9 percent had used these poisons versus only 4 percent having used alcohol. It's the silent epidemic.

When chemical vapors or fumes are "sniffed", "huffed", "bagged" or "ballooned," inhalant users take a chance on some serious side effects that can land them in the emergency room...or the morgue. The inhaled poison slows the blood flow to the brain, making the central nervous system shut down. The vapors actually dissolve brain tissue and users can permanently lose the ability to walk, talk, see or hear. Other long-term side effects can include problems with your reproductive system; gases replacing vital oxygen in the blood and weakening bones; and serious lung, liver and kidney damage. Younger users are especially vulnerable because they can permanently inhibit mental and physical developments.

Unlike alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, one huff can hurt.  The fact is, one out of three inhalant deaths were first-time users.

There are over 1000 products, including household clears, air fresheners and paints. They're all over your house. And, since parents aren't educated about the dangers of inhalants, they don't notice when products are missing from kitchen cupboards or garage shelves. Educate yourself. Find out about inhalants before your children do.

If you would never consider playing Russian roulette with a bullet in every chamber, don't play it with inhalants. And, if you're a parent, wake-up!  It is never too early to teach your children about the dangers of inhalants. Don't just say "not my kid." Inhalant use starts as early as elementary school and is considered a gateway to further substance abuse. Parents often remain ignorant of inhalant use or do not educate their children until it is too late. Inhalants are not drugs. They are poisons and toxins and should be discussed as such. Don't put it off. This is one talk you don't want to wait on. You might be a day too late. Just do it!

Inhalant Awareness Week is March 16-23. For information, intervention, call the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 800-269-4237  That's 800-269-4237. And don't forward to move your clocks ahead an hour this Sunday morning. Spring is on its way.

Inhalant Abuse

The Inhalant Abuse Prevention program, guided by a panel of distinguished experts, is designed to provide parents and other caregivers with essential information about the risks and prevention of inhalant abuse to equip them to have the discussions with their children.

What is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abuse refers to the deliberate sniffing of common products found in homes and communities with the purpose of “getting high.” According to the American Association of Pediatrics, nearly 20% of all eighth graders have experimented with some form of inhalant - that's one child in every five. Yet, ACE research indicated that less than half of the parents surveyed felt they knew enough about inhalants to even discuss the issue with their children. We have made it our goal to use educational research and create outreach materials designed to raise awareness, educate appropriate audiences, and prevent the epidemic of inhalant abuse among children.

What is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abuse refers to the deliberate sniffing of common products found in homes and communities with the purpose of “getting high.” According to the American Association of Pediatrics, nearly 20% of all eighth graders have experimented with some form of inhalant - that's one child in every five. Yet, ACE research indicated that less than half of the parents surveyed felt they knew enough about inhalants to even discuss the issue with their children. We have made it our goal to use educational research and create outreach materials designed to raise awareness, educate appropriate audiences, and prevent the epidemic of inhalant abuse among children.

Inhalants are easily accessible, legal, everyday products. When used as intended, these products have a useful purpose in our lives and enhance the quality of life. When intentionally misused, they can be deadly. Inhalant abuse is a lesser-recognized form of substance abuse, but it is no less dangerous. Inhalants are addictive and are considered to be “gateway” drugs because children often progress from inhalants to illegal drug and alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that one in five American teens have used inhalants to get high.

How Can Products Be Abused?

Inhalant abuse is referred to as huffing, sniffing, dusting, or bagging and generally occurs through the nose or mouth. Huffing is when a chemically soaked rag is held to the face or stuffed in the mouth and the substance is inhaled. Sniffing can be done directly from containers, plastic bags, clothing, or rags saturated with a substance or from the product directly. With bagging, substances are sprayed or deposited into a plastic or paper bag and the vapors are inhaled. This method can result in suffocation because a bag is placed over the individual’s head, cutting off the supply of oxygen.

Other methods used include placing inhalants on sleeves, collars, or other items of clothing that are sniffed over a period of time. Fumes are discharged into soda cans or balloons are filled with nitrous oxide and the vapors are inhaled. Heating volatile substances and inhaling the vapors emitted is another form of inhalant abuse. All of these methods are potentially harmful or deadly. Experts estimate that there are several hundred deaths each year from inhalant abuse, although under-reporting is still a problem.

What Products Can Be Abused?

There are more than a 1,400 products that are potentially dangerous when inhaled, such as typewriter correction fluid, air conditioning coolant, gasoline, propane, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane, cooking spray, paint, and glue. Most are common products that can be found in the home, garage, office, school, or as close as the local convenience store. The best advice for consumers is to read the labels before using a product to ensure the proper method is observed. It is also recommended that parents discuss the product labels with their children at age-appropriate times.

Dangers & Effects

First and foremost, it is important to know Inhalants Kill.

Children can die the first time, or any time, they try an Inhalant. This is known as Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. While it can occur with many types of inhalants, it is particularly associated with the abuse of air conditioning coolant, butane, propane, and the chemicals in some aerosol products. Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome is usually associated with cardiac arrest. The inhalant causes the heart to beat rapidly and erratically, resulting in cardiac arrest.

Inhaled chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and quickly distributed to the brain and other organs. Within minutes, the user experiences intoxication, with symptoms similar to those produced by drinking alcohol. With inhalants, however, intoxication lasts only a few minutes, so some users prolong the “high” by continuing to inhale repeatedly.

Short-term effects of inhaling include:

  • headaches
  • muscle weakness
  • abdominal pain
  • severe mood swings
  • violent behavior
  • belligerence
  • slurred speech
  • numbness
  • tingling of hands and feet
  • ausea
  • hearing loss
  • depressed reflexes
  • stupor
  • loss of consciousness
  • limb spasms
  • fatigue
  • lack of coordination
  • apathy
  • impaired judgment
  • dizziness
  • lethargy
  • visual disturbances

The inhalant user will initially feel slightly stimulated and, after successive attempts, will feel less inhibited and less in control. Hallucinations may occur and the user can lose consciousness. Worse, he or she, may even die.

Long-term effects of inhaling include:

  • weight loss
  • muscle weakness
  • disorientation
  • inattentiveness
  • lack of coordination
  • irritability
  • depression

Different inhalants produce different harmful effects and regular abuse of these substances can result in serious harm to vital organs. Serious, but potentially reversible, effects include liver and kidney damage.

Harmful irreversible effects include:

  • hearing loss
  • limb spasms
  • bone marrow
  • central nervous system (including brain) damage


Warning Signs of Abuse

Know the Warning Signs

Different inhalants yield different effects. Generally speaking, because inhaled chemicals are absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and distributed quickly to the brain and other organs, the effects of inhaling can be severe. Within minutes, the user experiences feelings of intoxication and may become dizzy, have headaches, abdominal pain, limb spasms, lack of coordination, loss of control, hallucinations, and impaired judgment. Worse, he or she may even die from a condition known as Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, which can even occur with first time users.

Long-term inhalant users generally suffer from muscle weakness, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, depression, liver or kidney damage, and central nervous system (including brain) damage. The dangers are real, the side effects are severe, and the high is not worth risking your life.

Behavioral Signs of Inhalant Abuse

  • Painting fingernails with magic markers or correction fluid
  • Sitting with a pen or marker by the nose
  • Constantly smelling clothing sleeves
  • Showing paint or stain marks on face, fingers, or clothing
  • Having numerous butane lighters and refills in room, backpack, or locker (when the child does not smoke)
  • Hiding rags, clothes, or empty containers of the potentially abused products in closets, under the bed, in garage, etc.

Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse

  • Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
  • Slurred or disoriented speech
  • Uncoordinated physical symptoms
  • Red or runny eyes and nose
  • Spots and/or sores around the mouth
  • Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
  • Signs of paint or other products where they wouldn’t normally be, such as on face, lips, nose, or fingers
  • Nausea and/or loss of appetite
  • Chronic inhalant abusers may exhibit symptoms such as hallucinations, anxiety, excitability, irritability, restlessness or anger.

In Case of an Emergency

  • First, stay calm. Do not excite or argue with the abuser while they are under the influence. This may trigger the heart rate to increase, causing cardiac arrest.
  • If the person is unconscious or not breathing - call for help immediately. CPR should be administered until help arrives.
  • If the person is conscious, keep them calm and in a well-ventilated area.

Do not leave the person alone.

  • Activity, excitement, or stress may cause heart problems or lead to Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (when an individual dies the first time they abuse an inhalant)
  • Check for clue. Try to find out what was used as the inhalant. Tell the proper authorities.
  • Seek professional help for the abuser through a counselor, school nurse, physician, teacher, clergy, or coach.
  • Be a good listener.

A helpful way to remember the warning signs of inhalant abuse:

Hidden, chemical-soaked rags or clothes
Eyes and nose red and runny
Loss of appetite or nausea
Paint or chemical stains on face or fingers



What are Aerosols?

Aerosols are self-dispensing, pressurized containers, including spray products and foam products, that are used by household, institutional, commercial, and industrial consumers.

Are Aerosols Being Abused?

Yes. Aerosols improve our quality of life in many ways. They provide benefits in medical treatment, health care, pest control, disease prevention, personal care and hygiene, household, automotive, and industrial cleaning maintenance. However, when abused and inhaled, they can cause serious harm and pose great danger to your health.

Examples of Products Being Abused

  • Spray paint
  • Hairspray
  • Air fresheners
  • Room deodorizers
  • Fabric protectants
  • Dusters or computer cleaners
  • Cooking spray
  • Whipped cream

Inhalant Abuse Cases Involving Aerosols

Check out the Inhalant Blog for inhalant abuse cases involving aerosols. Search by date, location, and product type.



What are Gases and Chemicals?

Gases are used in household or commercial products, including butane lighters, propane tanks, and refrigerant gases. There are also medical anesthetic gases, such as ether and chloroform.

Are These Products Being Abused?

YES. Gases and chemicals are being used in ways other than their intended purpose. It is important to note that medical anesthetic gases are useful and safe when they are administered by a doctor, but they can be dangerous when abused and used to obtain a high. Gases like butane, propane, and helium are never meant to be consumed.

Examples of Products Being Abused

  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Whippets
  • Butane
  • Propane
  • Helium
  • Ether
  • Chloroform
  • Halothane
  • Sulfur Hexafluoride

Inhalant Abuse Cases Involving Gases

Check out the Inhalant Blog for inhalant abuse cases involving gases and chemicals. Search by date, location, and product type.



What are Liquids?

Liquids are organic chemicals that are used to dissolve solid materials. Liquids are can be any paints, varnishes, inks, paint thinners, aerosol spray products, permanent marking pens, glues, adhesives, and much more. A liquid can also be a solvent, or a substance that is capable of dissolving other substances. Solvents such as, lighter fluid, spot removers, and degreasers also fall under this category.

Are These Products Being Abused?

YES. These products serve great purposes when they are used as intended and as directed on the product label. However, they are being used for other purposes like getting high. Liquid inhalant abuse involves inhaling the fumes of these products creating a strong intoxication. These products, and in some instances solvents, are also poured on rags and shirt sleeves and then inhaled. Chemical-soaked rags may be a warning sign of abuse.

Examples of Products Being Abused

  • Nail polish remover
  • Paint thinner
  • Paint remover
  • Correction fluid
  • Toxic magic markers
  • Pure toluene
  • Lighter fluid
  • Gasoline
  • Carburetor cleaner
  • Octane booster
  • Air conditioning coolant
  • Lighters
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Dry cleaning fluid
  • Dry erase board cleaner
  • Adhesives/glue
  • Household cleaners (kitchen and bathroom cleaners)
  • Spot removers
  • Degreasers

Inhalant Abuse Cases Involving Liquids

Check out the Inhalant Blog for inhalant abuse cases involving liquids. Search by date, location, and product type.


How Prevalent is Inhalant Abuse in the United States?

  • Over 2.6 million children aged 12 – 17 use an inhalant each year to get high.
  • 1 in 4 students in America has intentionally abused a common household product to get high by the time they reach the eighth grade.
  • Inhalants tend to be the drug that is tried first by children.
  • “Sniffing” and “huffing” can begin at age 10 or younger.
  • 59% of children are aware of friends huffing at age 12.
  • Inhalants are the fourth most-abused substance after alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.
  • The number of lives claimed by inhalant abuse each year is unknown because these deaths often are attributed to other causes.

The following information is taken from studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , the National Institute on Drug Abuse , and the Centers for Disease Control .

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

An estimated 24.6 million individuals aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users in 2013. For substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health-Overview of Findings, click here.

A little over 2% of 24.6 million individuals aged 12 or older were current users of inhalants in 2013. That means 496,000 individuals aged 12 or older were current users, and those are just the reported numbers. 121,000 of those individuals were aged 12 to 17 and 375,000 were aged 18 or older.

For more information on inhalant abuse at SAMSHA, visit their website.

NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Study

Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. Each year, a total of approximately 50,000 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students are surveyed (12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991). In addition, annual follow-up questionnaires are mailed to a sample of each graduating class for a number of years after their initial participation. The study has been funded under a series of investigator-initiated competing research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information on Monitoring the Future, click here.

National surveys indicate that nearly 21.7 million Americans aged 12 and older have used inhalants at least once in their lives. NIDA's Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey reveals that 13.1% of 8th graders have used inhalants. Parents and children need to know that even sporadic or single episodes of inhalant abuse can be extremely dangerous. Inhalants can disrupt heart rhythms and cause death from cardiac arrest, or lower oxygen levels enough to cause suffocation. Regular abuse of these substances can result in serious harm to vital organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver.

Through scientific research, we have learned much about the nature and extent of inhalant abuse, its pharmacology, and its consequences. This research has brought the picture of inhalant abuse in the nation into focus and pointed to the dangers and the warning signs for parents, educators, and clinicians. We hope this compilation of the latest scientific information will help alert readers to inhalant abuse and its harmful effects and aid efforts to deal with this problem effectively.

Below is an excerpt from the Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Inhalants for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders; 2014 (in percent).

Time Period
8th Grade
10th Grade
12th Grade



Past Year


Past Month


For more information on the Monitoring the Future Study and the National Institute for Drug Abuse, click here .

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) reported the following findings about Inhalant Abuse. For more information on the CDC and inhalant abuse, click here . (148 page PDF)

The survey notes:

  • 11.7% of students have used an inhalant to get high at least once in their lifetime (Table 44)
  • Females (12.9%) used inhalants more often than males (10.6%)
  • 9th grade female use (16.7%) was significantly higher than 9th grade male use (9.7%)
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among Hispanic (14.0%) than white (11.5%) and black (8.2%) students
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among Hispanic female (15.3%) than black female (9.4%) students
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among white male (10.4%) and Hispanic male (12.8%) than black male (7.1%) students.
  • Overall, the prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among 9th grade (13.0%), 10th grade (12.5%), and 11th grade (11.5%) than 12th-grade (9.1%) students
  • Overall, prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among 9th-grade female (16.7%) than 10th-grade female (13.1%), 11th-grade female (11.5%), and 12th grade female (9.3%) students
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants ranged from 8.7% to 16.8% across state surveys (median: 11.6%) and from 6.0% to 18.9% across local surveys (median: 9.9%) (Table 45)
  • The percentage of students who ever used inhalants decreased during 1995–2003 (20.3%–12.1%) and did not change significantly during 2003–2009 (12.1%–11.7%)
  • The percentage of students who ever used inhalants also decreased during 2007–2009 (13.3%–11.7%)


Disease Prevention

Public Health is best promoted by preventing disease. Cleanliness promotes good health. Yet each year, because of a simple lack of knowledge, people of all ages unwillingly come in contact with disease causing pathogens, and risk illness as a result. They can also transmit germs to loved ones in their homes, colleagues at work and school, and to others in the community. This continuing cycle of disease transmission presents a challenge to the good health of adults and children throughout the United States and around the world.

ACE is proud to promote healthy handwashing techniques and the proper use of products in order to improve the lives of children nationwide. Our Disease Prevention program was developed to educate on research-based findings that focus on preventing disease transmission within the home and in community settings. Our focus is to target families, children, and schools in order to provide the information necessary to break the cycle of disease transmission.

Learn more about disease prevention:

Download and print the PDFs below for seasonal health tips.

Fall Health Tip Sheets

Winter Health Tip Sheets

Spring Health Tip Sheet

Summer Health Tip Sheet


Poison Prevention

Each day, millions of consumers rely on an array of formulated products to care for their home environment. Yet, despite the broad use of these products, consumers are often unsure about how to properly and safely use, store, and dispose of them. Improper handling can lead to unintentional or accidental poisonings. ACE is providing consumers with information about measures that can be taken to prevent unintentional poisonings and to raise public awareness of the problem and safety measures.

ACE’s partnership with industry, the Poison Prevention Council and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, poise the foundation as a credible voice on the issue of poison prevention and accidental poisonings in the home.

Our Poison Prevention program utilizes research and outreach techniques that are designed to identify challenges and prevent the unintentional poisoning of small children. In case of emergency, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.

Slang Terms

  • Aimies Amphetamine; amyl nitrite
  • Air blast Inhalants
  • Ames Amyl nitrite
  • Amys Amyl nitrite
  • Aroma of men Isobutyl nitrite
  • Bagging Using inhalants
  • Bang Inhalants; to inject a drug
  • Bolt Amphetamine; isobutyl nitrite
  • Boppers Amyl nitrite
  • Bullet Isobutyl nitrite; inhalants
  • Bullet bolt Inhalants
  • Buzz Bomb Nitrous oxide
  • Chroming Inhalant
  • Climax Crack; heroin, isobutyl nitrite; inhalants
  • Discorama Inhalants
  • Glading Using inhalants
  • Gluey One who sniffs or inhales glue
  • Hardware Isobutyl nitrite; inhalants
  • Heart-on Inhalants
  • Highball Inhalants
  • Hippie crack Inhalants
  • Honey oil Ketamine; inhalants
  • Huff Inhalants
  • Laughing gas Nitrous oxide
  • Medusa Inhalants
  • Moon gas Inhalants
  • Nossies Nitrous oxide
  • Oz Inhalants
  • Pearls Amyl nitrite
  • Poor man’s pot Inhalants
  • Poppers Isobutyl nitrite; amyl nitrite
  • Quicksilver Isobutyl nitrite; inhalants
  • Rush Cocaine; isobutyl nitrite; inhalants
  • Rush Snappers Isobutyl nitrite
  • Satan’s secret Inhalants
  • Shoot the breeze Nitrous oxide
  • Snappers Isobutyl nitrite
  • Snotballs Rubber cement rolled into balls, burned, and the fumes are inhaled
  • Spray Inhalants
  • Texas shoe shine Inhalants
  • Thrust Isobutyl intrite; inhalants
  • Toilet water Inhalants
  • Tolly Toluene – chemical contained in many inhalants
  • Toncho Octane booster that is inhaled
  • Whippets Nitrous oxide
  • Whiteout Inhalants; isobutyl nitrite