Inhalants

Volatile chemicals and gases that produce behavioral effects are subject to abuse. These agents represent a broad range of chemical classes but in general can be classified as gases, volatile organic solvents, and aliphatic nitrites. Inhalant abuse differs from that of many other drugs in that it is confined primarily to juveniles and young adults. The use of gases is primarily confined to nitrous oxide by young medical professionals who have ready access to this agent. It produces short-lived mild intoxication that typifies the early stages of anesthesia. Deaths occur occasionally by individuals inhaling nitrous oxide alone. Volatile organic solvents are usually aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons. They include substances such as gasoline, paint and lacquer thinners, lighter fluid, degreasers (methyl chloride and methylene chloride), and the solvents in airplane glue, typewriter correction fluid, and bathroom deodorizers. These agents produce a sense of exhilaration and light-headed-ness. Judgment and perception of reality are impaired, and hallucinations may be produced. The mechanism by which inhalants produce their behavioral effects are poorly understood, but there are some indications that their actions are similar to those of other centrally acting depressants, including alcohol. Toxicity depends on the properties of the individual solvents. The consequences of inhaling these substances can be severe, for they have been implicated in producing cancer, cardiotoxicity, neuropathies, and hepatotoxicity.

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