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Many common household and workshop products are inhalants and accessible to youngsters. They need to be stored carefully and their use monitored. They include:
• Solvents, thinners, adhesives - eg. Nail polish remover, type correcting fluids, aeroplane glue
• Aerosols - eg. Oven cleaners, hairsprays
• Fuels - eg. Lighter fuels, petrol, camping gas
• Dry cleaning products - eg. Cleaning fluids

There were 40 deaths related to inhalants in the fifteen years between 1977 and 1992, 88 per cent males.

• The dangerous Practice of inhaling or breathing fumes from solvents or spray cans is often called "glue sniffing".
• "Glue sniffing" is generally only a minor problem in this country. It is not a popular or common practice among young people, though "glue sniffers" do get a lot of media attention.
• The volatile solvent chemicals from inhalants have intoxicating and sedative effects on the brain. Toluene, found in glue, is the most common ingredient.
• "Glue sniffing" is most common among teenagers. They generally grow out of it once other drugs such as alcohol and cannabis become available to them. Seven-year-olds have been known to start "glue sniffing". Because of the social stigma attached to "glue sniffing" most snifters stop around 16 or 17 years, unless they are seriously addicted.
• Young people who regularly use inhalants become psychologically dependent on them and start craving them.
• Sniffers who are still using inhalants at 20 to 25 years are usually highly addicted and it is very difficult to help them off their addiction. They are often polydrug users, that is, they'll sniff, use alcohol, cannabis and pills.
• Inhalants are absorbed into the fat cells of the body, especially around the brain and liver. Long term use can cause serious brain and liver damage. Studies have shown that "glue sniffers" generally use inhalants for an average of two years.
• Children and teenagers have died because they were using inhalant", Some inhalants are fatal but accidents while using them are more often the cause of death, for example, a serious fall, or suffocation.

Someone seriously affected or Intoxicated by inhalants will need:
• Fresh air, rest, reassurance, a safe place where they can’t come to any harm. Only time will sober them up. They may need to see a doctor.
• If they are unconscious, check breathing and place them in the recovery position. If they are not breathing give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and call an ambulance (dial 111).

Particularly dangerous inhalants that can cause death include:
• Twink thinners , up both nostrils has caused blocked airways, vomiting, and suffocation
• CRC (engine start)
• Petrol - very risky, causes death by vomiting,and asphyxiation, a highly inflammable substance which. can be lethal when an intoxicated user lights a cigarette, contains highly toxic benzine and lead, long term use damages liver, brain and central nervous system
• Nail polish and remover
• Butane gas - lethal when consumed with alcohol
• Spray cans 1 contain fluorocarbon and fatal
• Spray paints (polyurethane)
• Ether
• Chloroform
• Fire extinguishers.

Inhalants can affect the mind, causing:
• Intoxication, over excitement
• Confusion, dizziness, disorientation, drowsiness
• Slurred speech, impaired judgement,
• Changed perception , of time, space, colour, shape, size, feelings of being “spaced out”
• Short term memory loss
• Feelings of invincibility, aggression, violence
• Hallucinations, anxiety, tension, depression
• Blackouts
• Unconsciousness.

Someone using inhalants may:
• Have clothing that smells of inhalants, especially on cuffs and lapels of jackets
• Use mouth washes, heavy perfumes and deodorant
• Be withdrawn and uninterested in what’s happening around them
• Steal to get money to buy inhalants
• Be confused, dazed
• Have a "flat” personality

Using inhalants has some obvious physical effects including:
• Bad breath, running and bleeding nose, sneezing, chronic coughing, slow or difficult breathing
• Frequent watery, bloodshot, or irritated eyes, double vision
• Loss of weight and appetite
• Constant thirst
• Rash around the mouth and nose
• Chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, aching muscles
• Extremely large or extremely small pupils in eyes.

Young people who take up “glue sniffing” often come from troubled backgrounds. They may have family problems, troubled relationships, or problems at school. They miss school, sometimes leave home, take to sleeping out, sometimes become “street kids”, don’t lead normal lives. They need help and support.

Reproduced with the kind permission of the New Zealand Police Association

Back to Drug Abuse Index

There were 40 deaths related to inhalants in the fifteen years between 1977 and 1992

New Zealand Police Association
Reproduced with the kind permission of the NZ Police Association

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