Understanding Solvent Abuse

You may keep household essentials like hair spray, paint thinner and nail polish remover in your bathroom or garage without ever considering their potential for abuse. Unfortunately, these solvents pose many risks to people who are willing to experiment with them.

How Does Solvent Abuse Begin?

Teenagers often try inhalants before other drugs like alcohol or nicotine. Solvent abuse can be easy to hide because the substances used to get high are available virtually everywhere and their effects are so short-lived. Many people misuse inhalants by sniffing, snorting or huffing them, though any method that gets the substance into someone’s bloodstream will achieve the desired results.

You might dismiss the risks of solvents like aerosols and cleaning products because the substances seem innocuous, but the chemical vapors they release can be more dangerous than many illicit drugs. Some solvents can cause cardiac arrest, unconsciousness and blackouts from the first use, and there is no way to predict how much inhalant could be fatal.

Solvents produce effects resembling alcohol intoxication, including slurred speech, impaired motor skills and a lack of inhibitions. Some inhalants can also cause psychoactive effects such as hallucinations. Because these substances create such a fleeting euphoria, solvent users might rapidly build a tolerance by abusing the product over and over. When this happens, a lack of solvents can cause powerful cravings.

Are Solvents Addictive?

You might suspect someone you love has a solvent addiction if you find household products in unusual places, such as hidden under a bed or in a closet. Other signs can be subtle, and might include mood swings, poor hygiene, paranoia, behavioral changes, appetite loss, concentration problems or apathy.

Besides addiction, solvents can cause severe physical and mental health consequences, including organ and tissue damage, hearing loss, coma and death. Solvent use can also be a gateway to other drugs, worsening the cycle of substance abuse.

Depending on the solvent, discontinuing use may reverse the harmful effects. However, some people who misuse inhalants may have permanent damage to vital organs like the brain, kidneys, heart and liver.

Is Someone You Know Abusing Inhalants?

Once a solvent addiction takes hold, the temptation to get high will continue despite adverse consequences like poor health and damaged relationships. Many people experience physical and psychological withdrawal effects when they try to quit using inhalants. These might include headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, trouble concentrating and intense cravings.

Inhalant abuse treatment requires approaches like evidence-based practices, 12-step immersion and family care. If you need help for yourself or a loved one, Cumberland Heights is here. As Tennessee’s first substance abuse rehab to attain certification from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, we offer various treatment modalities for the communities we serve, creating a unique recovery plan for every client. Start a confidential conversation with our admissions specialists when you’re ready to learn more.