Poison Help Hotline
(800) 222-1222

Administrative Office
(615) 936-0760

Inhalant Abuse Prevention


FACT: Tennessee ranks 7th in the United States for inhalant abuse.

FACT: By the 8th grade, one in five young people has used an inhalant to get high; leading to risk of brain damage or death.

What Is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abuse is the deliberate inhalation or sniffing of common products found in homes and schools to obtain a "high".

Inhalant abuse can kill suddenly, and it can kill those who sniff for the first time. Every year, young people die of inhalant abuse. Hundreds also suffer severe consequences, including permanent brain damage, loss of muscle control and destruction of the heart, blood, kidney, liver and bone marrow.

Today more than 1,000 different products are commonly abused. Many youth say that they begin sniffing when they're in grade school. They start because they feel those substances can't hurt them, because of peer pressure, or because of low self-esteem. Once hooked, these victims find it a tough habit to break.

What Products Are Abused?

Ordinary household products, which can be safely used for legitimate purposes, are poisons in the hands of an inhalant abuser. The following categories of products are reported abused: glues/adhesives, nail polish remover, marking pens, paint thinner, spray paint, lighter fluid, gasoline, propane gas, typewriter fluid, household cleaners, cooking sprays, deodorants, fabric protectors, whipping cream aerosols, and air conditioning agents.

How Can You Tell If Someone Is an Inhalant Abuser?

If someone is an inhalant abuser, some or all of these symptoms may be evident:

  • Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
  • Slurred or disoriented speech
  • Drunk, dazed, or dizzy appearance
  • Signs of paint or other products where they wouldn't normally be, such as on the face or fingers
  • Red or runny eyes or nose
  • Chronic inhalant abusers may exhibit such symptoms as anxiety, excitability, irritability or restlessness

What Can You Do To Prevent Inhalant Abuse?

One of the most important steps you can take is to talk with youth about not experimenting even a first time with inhalants. In addition, talk with teachers, guidance counselors and coaches.

Education should start at a young age. Inhalant abuse often begins in elementary school and can lead to further drug abuse, lifelong health problems or even death.

By discussing this problem openly and stressing the devastating consequences of inhalant abuse, tragedies can be prevented.

An adult training program, Inhalant Abuse: What You Should Know, is available at www.InhalantAbuseTraining.org. This program was developed by the New England Inhalant Abuse Prevention Coalition and the Massachusetts Northeast Regional Center for Healthy Communities.  

If you have a question about inhalant abuse or if someone has been poisoned by inhalants, call Tennessee Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.