Millions of Americans have taken part in a type of substance abuse known as huffing. Although more common among teens than adults, many parents don’t realize that their children are risking their health by participating in this dangerous behavior. However, when you understand the signs and symptoms of huffing addiction, you can better prepare to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
What is Huffing?
Huffing involves inhaling fumes from glue, gasoline, cleaning supplies, and other products that are often found in homes and workplaces.
Huffing can elicit a brief but intense high. People who huff may experience temporary euphoria, disorientation, lightheadedness, and loss of inhibition. The brevity of these effects often causes people to huff repeatedly, which increases their risk for harm.
According to a 2017 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 2.7 percent of adolescents and 0.4 percent of adults engaged in huffing in the previous year. Of the 1.8 million people who reported past-year huffing, more than 680,000 were age 17 or younger.
What do People Huff to Get High?
People huff a variety of substances in an attempt to get high. These substances usually fall into one of the following four categories:
- Aerosol sprays: Substances in this category include hair spray, spray paint, and cooking sprays. Many aerosol sprays have common household uses, which can make them more easily accessible by adolescents.
- Solvents: This category includes correction fluid, glue, dry cleaning chemicals, paint remover, and gasoline. Some solvents are commonly used at home, while others are more prevalent in industrial settings.
- Gases: Nitrous oxide, which is often referred to as laughing gas, is perhaps the most common gas that’s used for huffing. Other gases that may be huffed include propane, butane, and chloroform.
- Nitrates: These substances are often used as a means of enhancing sexual pleasure. Frequently referred to as poppers, this category includes liquids that are often sold as leather cleaners, deodorizers, or liquid incense.
No matter what substance a person inhales, or what effect they hope to get, huffing is an extremely unhealthy behavior that can have catastrophic consequences.
Dangers of Huffing
Here are just a few of the many potential harmful effects of huffing:
- Impaired judgement
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of consciousness
- Damage to the liver and kidneys
- Hearing loss
- Convulsions and seizures
- Brain damage
Some of the effects listed above can occur the first time a person engages in huffing. Other effects are more likely to occur when a person has been huffing for an extended period. The key takeaway is that there is no such thing as risk-free huffing.
Is Huffing Addictive?
Huffing addiction is not common, but it can occur. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) uses the term inhalant use disorder to describe huffing addiction.
Addiction occurs when a person loses control of their behavior. People who develop huffing addiction may be unable to stop huffing once they’ve begun. They may try to limit the amount and frequency of their huffing, but they will be unable to do so.
Huffing addiction can take over a person’s life. Its effects can include physical, mental, and social harm. Huffing addiction can disrupt relationships. It can undermine a person’s ability to make progress in school or at work. Huffing can jeopardize a person’s health and even put their life at risk.
Signs and Symptoms of Huffing Addiction
Many people who become addicted to huffing try to keep it a secret. But you may be able to tell if someone you know has been abusing inhalants.
The following are common signs and symptoms of huffing:
- Impaired speech, balance, and coordination
- Significant weight loss due to diminished appetite
- Confusion and disorientation
- Watery eyes and runny nose
- Frequent headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inability to concentrate, focus, or follow a conversation
- Smell of chemicals on clothes, body, or breath
- Irritation near the mouth and nose
- Stains from paint or other substances on their clothes, hands, or face
- Neglecting their appearance and personal hygiene
- Acting with uncharacteristic anger, violence, or hostility
Here are some common signs and symptoms of huffing addiction:
- Using inhalants in larger amounts or for longer than intended
- Developing tolerance, needing increased amounts of the substance to experience the desired effect
- Having powerful cravings for the inhalant
- Continuing to huff after incurring physical or psychological harm from this behavior
- Spending significant amounts of huffing or recovering from the effects of huffing
- Neglecting personal or professional obligations due to huffing
- Trying to stop huffing, but being unable to do so
No single sign or symptom is proof that someone has become addicted to huffing. But the behaviors and characteristics listed above may indicate that a person is in crisis.
If anyone you know has been exhibiting any signs and symptoms of huffing addiction, they may need professional help.
How to Treat a Huffing Addiction
Huffing addiction is treated with several types of therapy on an inpatient or outpatient basis. What’s most important is assessing the full scope of the person’s needs, then determining which services are right for them.
Therapy offers a variety of benefits for people who have become addicted to huffing. With the guidance of an experienced therapist, people can identify harmful thought and behavior patterns, and then replace them with healthier ways of thinking and acting.
During therapy sessions, people can also discuss the reasons why they began huffing in the first place. Addressing the underlying causes of huffing addiction can help a person end this dangerous behavior. Therapy sessions are also supportive places where participants can develop the skills to resist future urges to abuse inhalants.
Begin Addiction Treatment for Huffing in South Florida
Ambrosia Treatment Center provides quality treatment for those whose lives have been disrupted by huffing abuse and addiction. Our treatment center in South Florida offers compassionate care within a safe and structured environment. When you’re ready to regain control of your life, the Ambrosia team is here for you. Contact us today to learn how we can help.