Mental Health Effects of Inhalants Abuse and Addiction
- Why Is This Important?
- Inhalants and the Brain
- Do Inhalants Cause Anxiety?
- Suicide and Inhalants Abuse
- Inhalant Abuse and Depression
- Auditory Hallucinations
- Personality Disorders
- Antisocial Behavior and Delinquency
What are Inhalants?Inhalants are a class of volatile substances that include solvents, aerosols, nitrites and gases and produce psychoactive effects when used. They are found in commonly occurring household products like cleaners, deodorants, and nail polish.
Why Is This Important?
Mental Health Facts:
Inhalant users show the highest rates of mental illness diagnoses.
Inhalant use is linked to exacerbating the symptoms of:
- Personality disorders.
- Self-harm behaviors.
Inhalant abuse and mental health is an important topic because:
- Inhalants cause serious damage to the central nervous system (sometimes after a single use) and can disrupt emotional, neurobiological and psychological mechanisms; especially in adolescents.
- They are readily available due to being commonly found in most homes:
- They are relatively low in cost.
- They are typically used by young children and adolescents.
- They have been known to lead to other drug use.
- According to research, public health professionals and parents are concerned because inhalants affect cognition and brain maturation.
- Because of the relatively short-acting and short-lasting high from inhalants, many users inhale increasingly large amounts, a practice that can lead to irreparable toxicity and neurological deficits.
Inhalants and the Brain
Inhalants increase dopamine in certain brain regions and also depress central nervous system activity. Long-term inhalant abuse has lead to persistent dysfunctions in the mesolimbic dopamine system causing cognitive and behavioral deficits.
To simplify the effect of inhalants on the brain:
- At lower doses, inhalant use causes immediate feelings of euphoria, excitation, and light-headedness (consistent with increases in dopamine).
- Prolonged use and higher doses cause CNS depression which may result in:
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired coordination.
- Blurred vision.
Severe central nervous system depression can result in seizures, coma and in worse cases--death.
According to research:
Long-term use of inhalants may impair cognitive abilities leading to memory loss, difficulty concentrating and attention deficits.
- Neurobiological abnormalities related to damage of the brain's white matter have been linked to long-term inhalant use.
- Inhalant use can lead to tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing in ears) which may develop into hearing loss if use persists.
- Inhalant users are at an increased risk for head injury or traumatic brain injury, which can occur because of loss of consciousness during use.
- Peripheral neuropathy, or difficulty moving your hands and feet, is another significant side effect of prolonged huffing.
Do Inhalants Cause Anxiety?
Suicide and Inhalants Abuse
Inhalant Abuse and Depression
Data from the 2001-2002 National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions showed 45% of inhalant users surveyed had a lifetime prevalence of personality disorders.
- Antisocial personality disorder was most frequently diagnosed among inhalant users and more prevalent in males than females, 36% versus 22% respectively.
- Avoidant, paranoid and obsessive-compulsive personality disorders are also significantly correlated with inhalant use.
Antisocial Behavior and Delinquency
Inhalant use has been associated with antisocial behavior, delinquency, school truancy, and deviant behavior.
- Incarcerated youth have a higher lifetime prevalence of inhalant use.
- Inhalant users show high rates of criminal behavior.
- Chronic inhalant use can increase anger and aggressive behavior; this may explain the tendency towards committing deviant acts that is exhibited by some users.
- Brannon, G.E. (2014). Medscape: Inhalant-related psychiatric disorders. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/290344-overview#a6
- Cruz, S.L., Rivera-Garcia, M.T. & Woodward, J.J. (2014). Review of toluene action: Clinical evidence, animal studies and molecular targets. The International Journal Of Drug and Alcohol Research, 3, doi: 10.4303/jdar/235840.
- Snyder, S.M. & Howard, M.O. (2015). Patterns of inhalant use among incarcerated youth. PLoS One, 10 (9), doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135303
- Takagi, M.J., Yucel, M. & Lubman, D.I. (2010). The dark side of sniffing: Paint colour affects intoxication experiences among adolescent inhalant users. Drug and Alcohol Review, 29(4), 452-455.
- Woodward, J.J. & Beckley, J. (2014). Effects of the abused inhalant toluene on the mesolimbic dopamine system. The International Journal of Drug and Alcohol Research, 3, doi:10.4303/jdar/235838
- Wu, L. & Howard, M.O. (2007). Psychiatric disorders in inhalant users: Results from the national epidemiologic survey on alcohol and related conditions. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 88(2-3), 146-155.
- Zubaran, C., Foresti, K., Thorell, M.R., & Franceschini, P.R. (2013). Anxiety symptoms in crack cocaine and inhalant users admitted to a psychiatric hospital in southern Brazil. Journal of the Brazilian Medical Association, 59(4), 360-367.