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Inhalant Withdrawal

Did you know that one of the most dangerous drugs of abuse might be in your home or garage right now?

Inhalants represent a wide variety of chemicals that can have psychoactive effects when inhaled without needing a heat source. Inhalants are one of the most easily attainable drugs of abuse because they often come in the form of common household and industrial solvents and aerosol sprays. Because they are so easy to get, they are often used by children and teens that are seeking an exploratory high.

However, inhalants can be extremely dangerous. Inhalant use is associated with several serious consequences, including asphyxiation, mouth and throat burns, convulsions, coma, injuries, and sudden death.

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Inhalants aren’t known to have a high potential for chemical dependence, but it can happen with frequent use. This can lead to some pretty disturbing withdrawal symptoms. If you or a loved one has been using inhalants, it’s important to know the risks. Learn more about inhalant withdrawal and how addiction can be treated.

Inhalant Withdrawal Symptoms

The effects of an inhalant in your body can vary depending on the specific type of inhalant you’ve been using. Because inhalants aren’t likely to be chemically addictive, sometimes they don’t cause any significant symptoms after you quit. Psychological dependence on a chemical might cause anxiety or irritability when you stop using.

However, it is possible to develop a tolerance to certain inhalants with frequent use, and in some cases, people will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they stop using abruptly.

In cases where inhalants cause withdrawal symptoms, they are often compared to the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol or other depressants. However, withdrawal symptoms are unlikely to cause seizures or delirium tremens like alcohol can.

Symptoms of an inhalant withdrawal can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Fast heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Tachycardia
  • Jitteriness

It’s recommended that inhalant withdrawal be taken seriously and that you go through it in a controlled setting. If you believe that you might experience withdrawal symptoms, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.

Inhalant Withdrawal Timeline

  • 24 hours. If you have become tolerant of and dependent on an inhalant, you might start to feel anxious or irritable 24 hours after your last dose. 
  • Five days. Between two and five days, you will likely feel your symptoms escalate and peak. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, and hallucinations.
  • One month. Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can linger for a month or more. However, physical symptoms of withdrawal are likely to pass. Still, you may experience drug cravings and anxiety for longer.
  • Longterm. In some cases, cravings and psychological symptoms can last for a long time. Other medical complications from inhalant use might continue to bother you. It’s important to ask a doctor and seek treatment if symptoms persist. 

Why Should You Detox?

Inhalants are unpredictable for multiple reasons. People may react to them differently, and there are several varieties of solvents and compressed inhalants that people use. If you’ve been using one of these volatile substances, your experience with withdrawal may be difficult to anticipate. Plus, inhalant use can come with several health risks that may need to be addressed by a professional.

Even though withdrawal symptoms are rare, and they aren’t likely to be as dangerous as the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol or benzodiazepines, they could cause uncomfortable and disturbing symptoms.

Hallucinations and delusions can be dangerous if you go through them on your own. In some cases, they can lead to panic or aggression that can cause injury. 

Nausea, vomiting, and sweating can potentially lead to dehydration, which can lead to serious complications. Drinking plenty of fluids can combat dangerous dehydration. If you are unable to get up and drink or don’t have access to water, you may be at risk.

Finally, changes in your heartbeat and blood pressure can be risky for some people, especially those who have co-occurring heart conditions. Symptoms like tachycardia can be dangerous for people with cardiovascular diseases or similar vulnerabilities.

The safest way to go through inhalant withdrawal is to go through a medical detox program with 24-hour monitoring. 

What Are the Inhalant Withdrawal Treatment Steps?

When you enter addiction treatment, you will go through an intake and assessment process that is able to help you find the best treatment for your specific needs. Clinicians are likely to use an assessment called the ASAM Criteria, a set of six factors that should be considered when recommending any particular level of care in treatment.

The six factors include intoxication and withdrawal potential, biomedical conditions, psychological conditions, readiness to change, relapse potential, and your recovery environment. If you have high-level medical needs or if you are likely to go through serious withdrawal symptoms, you may be placed in a medical detox program.

Medical detox offers 24-hour medically managed addiction treatment each day. Detox allows your body to readjust its brain chemistry without the drug in your system. Through detox, medical professionals can treat symptoms of withdrawal and help you avoid potentially dangerous complications. Detox can also help to treat other medical conditions and complications that may need to be addressed alongside substance use problems.

After you complete medical detox, if you still have significant medical needs, you may continue on to an inpatient or residential treatment program. Inpatient programs include 23-hour medical monitoring or clinically managed treatment. This is a slightly less intensive level of care when compared to detox, but it still involves 24-hour care from medical staff. At this level, you may begin to address the deeper underlying issues of your addiction while you continue to have medical and clinical support.

Once you’re ready to live on your own, you may move on to an intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP). At this level of care, you will attend treatment during the day and live at home at night.

IOP requires the attendance of at least nine hours every week, but it will most likely be more when you are early in your treatment process. Partial hospitalization falls under the category of IOP, and it involves more than 20 hours of treatment services per week.

Outpatient treatment, the lowest level of care in addiction treatment, involves fewer than nine hours of treatment services per week. Though it’s less intensive than other levels, it’s an important step between higher levels of care and complete independence.

Why Should You Seek Treatment?

Inhalants represent an extremely dangerous form of drug use. Different chemicals can cause serious side effects, some of which can be deadly. Addiction is a chronic condition that often gets worse if it’s ignored. Though inhalants aren’t normally chemically addictive, each use is dangerous, and substance use disorders often lead to the use of other drugs.

Addressing a substance use problem as early as possible may mean avoiding some of the most unpleasant consequences of drug abuse like long term health problems. Learn more about inhalant addiction today to take your first steps toward lasting freedom from active addiction.

Sources

Anderson, C. E., & Loomis, G. A. (2003, September 1). Recognition and Prevention of Inhalant Abuse. from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0901/p869.html

ASAM. (n.d.). What is the ASAM Criteria? from https://www.asam.org/resources/the-asam-criteria/about

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012, July). What are inhalants? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/inhalants/what-are-inhalants

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, February). 8: Medical detoxification. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

Ogbru, A., & Marks, J. W. (n.d.). Benzodiazepines Drug Class: Side Effects, Types & Uses. from https://www.rxlist.com/benzodiazepines/drugs-condition.htm

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