The effects of any drug (including inhalants) vary from person to person. How inhalants affect a person depends on many things including their size, weight and health, also whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken. The effects of any drug also depend on the amount taken.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk—even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
The effects of inhalants may start to be felt immediately and can last for 45 minutes.
Some of the effects that may be experienced after taking inhalants include:
A higher dose of inhalants can increase the chances of:
"Sudden sniffing death" has followed the use of aerosol sprays, cleaning and correction fluids, and model aeroplane cement. It is believed that chemicals in these products can cause heart failure, particularly if the user is stressed or does heavy exercise after inhaling. This is very rare.
As the effects of inhalants begin to wear off, a person may experience effects such as headache, nausea and dizziness. These effects can last for a number of days.
People who use inhalants long-term may experience the following effects:
Most long-term effects are not permanent and can be reversed if use is stopped. However, some inhalants such as cleaning products, correction fluid, aerosol sprays and petrol can cause permanent damage, especially if people use them heavily for a long period.
Some of the chemicals in inhalants may build up in the body. They can irritate the stomach and the intestines, and can cause damage to the brain, nervous system, kidneys and liver.
The chances of an overdose are increased if inhalants are taken with other depressant drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates. Using inhalants with other depressants can affect breathing rate and the heart and blood vessels. Mixing drugs can also increase the risk of passing out and suffocating or choking on vomit.
Read about the effects of drugs on pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Read about the effects of drugs on driving.
Last Reviewed: 24 February 2012