Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

While there are many drugs that can be smoked or inhaled, in addition to be ingested or chewed, “inhalants” are specifically any drug that must be inhaled in order to be abused. These often include products that aren’t safe for contact with the human body, like cleaning supplies, chemicals, and even products used in construction. These substances are often found in gas, paint, solvent, or aerosol spray form in the form of volatile compounds.

While inhalants can make a teen feel very high, they can also cause a great deal of damage to the body, especially with extended use. The ready availability of this type of drug makes quick intervention paramount.

What Does Teen Inhalant Abuse Look Like?

  • Teens who huff may place rags soaked with chemicals in their mouths, spray certain products up their noses, or snort fumes.
  • Teens who huff chemicals usually do so repetitively as the effect is very short-lived. They will become high, but the gasses in the items they inhale will also cause them to have speech issues, coordination delays, and episodes of dizziness.
  • The long-term effects of huffing may include drowsiness and nausea. The chemicals contained in many household or commercial products are dangerous and can cause death. Some teens use baggies to huff at a higher concentration, increasing their risks.

Signs of Teen Inhalant Abuse

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

Slurred or slow speech

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

Episodes of dizziness

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

Coordination issues

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment


Stomach cramps and/or pain

Nausea or vomiting

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

Heart irregularities

Commonly Abused Inhalants

Volatile Solvents – These include products like gasoline, markers, white-out, glue and paint thinners. This type of product starts as a liquid but turns to gas when it hits room temperature.

Aerosols – These include canned deodorants, cooking oil spray, paints, and other chemicals in spray cans.

Gases – Not all forms of gas can be used as inhalants. Those that can include chloroform, propane, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), halothane, refrigerants and butane. These are all especially addictive because they have psychotropic qualities.

Nitrites – This category is also sometimes referred to as a snapper or popper. The drugs dilate blood vessels and also work as muscle relaxers or sexual enhancers. Although they are banned by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, this category includes cyclohexyl nitrite, isoamyl nitrite, and isobutyl nitrite.

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Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

What Causes Teen Inhalant Abuse?

Curiosity – The ready availability of the chemicals used in huffing makes it just about impossible to ban access to these substances. A lot of teens start because they are curious. Other risk factors then lead to dependence or addiction.

Stress – Stress is a major risk factor for many people huffing or abusing inhalants. It is even more prevalent in teens who live in poverty.

Genetics – A family history of addiction can raise a teen’s risk factor for using drugs with psychoactive effects. Some teens are more susceptible to any form of addiction, while others are more prone to be attracted to certain drug types.


graders and pre-teens are more likely to use inhalants than adults


of inhalant abusers were under age 18 in 2010


the age at which most children try inhalants

How Can I Help My Teen with Inhalant Abuse?

Build a Relationship Based on Trust – The relationships between teens and their parents are always a bit rocky, but communication is especially important during these critical years. Teens are naturally quick-tempered, contrary, and a bit rash. While taking a super-strict approach may make things worse, it’s still important to create clear boundaries and command respect. Make sure you follow through when it comes to enforcing your rules. Building a trusting relationship doesn’t mean being your teen’s best friend. It means encouraging them to be honest and open so you can learn to listen to each other.

Show Interest in Their Hobbies – Teens coming out of rehab often feel lost and as though they don’t have any direction. While you don’t want to overwhelm your teen, you should encourage them to participate in the activities they show interest, or to try something new. Your teen will need help finding direction as they search for happiness.

Educate Yourself – Familiarize yourself with the products teens tend to abuse as inhalants. Learn which products are most commonly used recreationally, even though they’re marketed for a different purpose. The more you know about inhalants and huffing, the easier it will be to spot a change in your teen’s behavior.

What Types of Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment Are Available?

Teens who abuse inhalants are generally struggling with mental health issues as opposed to an actual addiction. The intense high is incredibly motivating on a mental level, but not necessarily physically addictive.

That said, inhalants are considered more dangerous than a lot of other drugs. While they may not be as addictive, the chemicals in the most commonly abused products can cause organ and brain damage, and sometimes death.

Medical Attention

It’s incredibly important for your teen’s treatment to start with a medical exam. A doctor and addiction specialist will need to determine what damage, if any, the chemicals have caused. They’ll also assess the level of dependency your teen has developed.

A medical assessment will also help to determine whether or not your teen will need intervention during the withdrawal process. They may also need medication to combat the symptoms of the damage that has already been done.


Therapy is critical, but it is secondary to ensuring your teen is physically healthy. Many teens turn to drugs as a result of mental health issues, including tough times. Drugs can also trigger anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders.

Experienced addiction specialists can help your teen figure out why they started using drugs to start with. They’ll also learn what to do to combat their cravings and better deal with stress in the future.

Residential Treatment

Spending time in a drug-free atmosphere is often incredibly helpful to teens struggling to work through drug abuse. Drug use only amplifies the emotional and physical challenges teens face simply because they’re in a tough phase of life. A dedicated program removed from life’s daily stressors can be very helpful in helping a teen recover.

The treatment center you choose to work with is important. Your teen needs to be treated as an individual. The facility should also be capable of making sure your teen doesn’t fall behind academically while in rehab.

Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Our programs are multimodal, offering teens a gradual approach to recovery. The first step is to get a teen to stop inhaling. While this is more difficult for some than others, our doctors and therapists are there to support them every step of the way.

The Environment Matters

A lot of teens start using inhalants because they’re curious and then find themselves intrigued by the high. Others choose to experiment because they are struggling to find an effective way to cope with everyday stress. No matter what the reason, our therapists will help your teen figure out why they started using so they can address the underlying issues.

Planning for the Future

Recovery doesn’t end when a teen returns home. The therapists at Paradigm San Francisco focus on making sure your teen learns new coping mechanisms while building healthier daily habits. They’ll explore their own belief systems and develop a series of resources they can turn to when dealing with doubt, negativity and anxiety. The teens who leave our programs do so feeling empowered.

Addiction is a very scary thing. Its hard to run from because no matter how far you go and how well you hide, it will always find you. Paradigm Malibu taught me how to go in to the world and see a drug and not want to do it...

– Juliet D.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Inhalant Abuse Treatment

Is teen inhalant abuse treatment really necessary for huffing?

Yes. While some teens start huffing out of curiosity, many will continue to do so through their young adult years. They are unaware of the potential long-term physical damage they could be causing. Many want to stop, but find they can’t. In those cases, help is critical.

Are inhalants really as dangerous as other drugs?

While they’re not as addictive, they are still very dangerous. The chemicals contained within these drugs can cause muscle, organ, and even permanent brain damage. It doesn’t take long for damage to occur. Inhalants can also cause a teen to become disoriented while they’re high, putting them in danger if they are unaware of their surroundings.

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