Inhalants can be physically and psychologically addictive. Users report a strong desire and urge to continue using inhalants, especially after a continued usage of many days.
Habitual users coming off inhalants suffer withdrawal symptoms which include nausea, muscle cramps, headaches, hallucinations, shaking, and agitation and in severe cases withdrawal can cause convulsions. The withdrawals are what keep them wanting the inhalants if no proper help is given.
There are different kinds of inhalants and they are categorised as follows:
Liquids — that vaporise at room temperatures. These are found in numerous easily available household and industrial products including paint thinners, degreasers, gasoline, glues, and correction and felt tip marker fluids.
Sprays — such as spray paints, deodorant and hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays for cooking and fabric protector sprays.
Gases — including medical anaesthetics (ether, chloroform and nitrous oxide commonly called laughing gas) butane lighter, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers and refrigerants.
Nitrites — a chemical found in food preservatives, leather cleaner, room deodorizers etecetera. are considered a special class of inhalants which work directly on the central nervous system, brain and spinal cord. They are used mainly as sexual enhancers and are commonly known as “poppers”.
Dangerous as they are their use or abuse is not regulated hence we find our youths in the streets openly sniffing their glue.
The history behind the use and abuse of inhalants that is the inhaling of fumes from chemicals such as incense, oils, resins, spices and perfumes to alter consciousness, or as part of religious ceremonies dates back to ancient times in Egypt, Babylonia, India and China.
According to some researchers, inhaling gas vapours to alter one’s state of consciousness was practised by the priestesses at the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece.
In the early 1800s, nitrous oxide, ether and chloroform were the anaesthetics used commonly as intoxicants. Nitrous oxide was regarded as a cheap substitute for alcohol and was popularised by the British scientist Sir Humphry Davy. He held nitrous oxide parties and coined the word “laughing gas” in 1799, realising the anaesthetic effects.
Ether was used as a recreational drug in the 1920s prohibition era when alcohol was made illegal in the US.
The abuse of inhalants is spread all over the world turning out to be the most cheap drug of use.
ν Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist.For more information and help call or whatsapp +263772399734 or email [email protected] and join the Rechabites in creating drug-free healthy and productive communities.