Facts You Should Know About Inhalants - DHS 4707

State of Illinois
Department of Human Services

Inhalants are breathable chemicals that produce mind altering vapors. People do not think of inhalants as drugs because most of the products used as inhalants are sold legally for another purpose. There are over a thousand of these products, and typically they are broken into 3 categories. The first category is volatile solvents and includes such items as glue, spray paint, aerosol deodorant, nail polish remover, paint thinner, type correction fluid, markers, gasoline, spot remover, vegetable cooking spray, butane, propane, and helium. The second category is anesthetics and includes such chemicals as nitrous oxide and ether. The third category includes the amyl, butyl, and isobutyl nitrites such as room fresheners.

Slang Terms:

  • Laughing Gas
  • Rush
  • Whippets
  • Snappers
  • Poppers

Methods of Intake:

  • Sniffing or Snorting
  • Bagging (inhaling fumes from a plastic bag)
  • Huffing (stuffing an inhalant soaked rag into the mouth)


Inhalants can cause intoxicating effects that last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours if the inhalants are taken repeatedly. Initially users may feel slightly stimulated. With successive inhalations, users feel less inhibited and less in control. Finally a user can lose consciousness.


Inhaling highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals can directly induce heart failure and death. High concentrations of inhalants can also cause death from suffocation by

displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing ceases. Other irreversible effects are hearing loss, limb spasms, and central nervous system or brain damage. Serious but potentially reversible effects include liver and kidney damage and blood oxygen depletion.

Side Effects:

  • Nausea Loss of appetite
  • Bad breath Double vision Runny/bloody nose Lack of coordination
  • Eye irritation Sneezing
  • Erratic heart beat Coughing Vomiting Diarrhea
  • Headache Chest pain
  • Ringing in the ears Poor memory Anxiety Irritability
  • Confusion Moodiness
  • Aggressiveness Hand Tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Sores/rash around mouth/nose
  • Less concern about appearance



If you would like to know what substance abuse treatment providers are in your community, contact one of the following helplines:

  • 1-800-662-HELP
  • 1-800-662-9832 (Español)
  • 1-800-228-0427 (TTY)
  • If you have any questions about alcohol or other drugs, call:

Illinois Department of Human Services
Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

  • 1-866-213-0548 (toll-free Voice)
  • 1-866-843-7344 (toll-free TTY)

If you have questions about any Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) program, call or visit your FCRC. We will answer your questions. If you do not know where your FCRC is or if you are unable to go there, you may call the automated helpline 24 hours a day at:

  • 1-800-843-6154
  • 1-866-324-5553 (TTY)

You may speak to a representative between 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Monday - Friday (except state holidays).

For answers to your questions, you may also write:

Illinois Department of Human Services
Bureau of Customer and Provider Assistance
100 South Grand Avenue East
Springfield, Illinois 62762

Visit our web site at: www.dhs.state.il.us

Programs, activities and employment opportunities in the Illinois Department of Human Services are open and accessible to any individual or group without regard to age, sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic origin or religion. The department is an equal opportunity employer and practices affirmative action and reasonable accommodation programs.

DHS 4707 (R-04-14) Drug Series - Inhalants

Printed by the Authority of the State of Illinois.

200 copies P.O.#14-1084