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Teenage Inhalant Abuse: Signs and Treatment Options


teen after abusing inhalants

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines inhalants as “volatile substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect.” Inhalants are divided into four categories, which include: aerosols (e.g., spray paints, hair spray, vegetable oil sprays, spray-on deodorant, etc.), gases (e.g., discharging a whipped cream canister, medical anesthetics, etc.) and volatile solvents (e.g., paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, glue, felt-tip markers, degreasers, etc.). Since many inhalants are commonly found in household products, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not classify them as a Scheduled Controlled Substance. However, abuse of inhalants can be dangerous for teens, and could lead to the development of a variety of adverse short and long-term side effects. Unfortunately, inhalant abuse is highly common among teenagers. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health published findings that 24 million Americans reported abusing inhalants during their lifetime.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several possible signs and symptoms a young person struggling with inhalant abuse may exhibit. The Mayo Clinic provides the following examples:

  • Irritability 
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Sores surrounding the mouth
  • Appears dizzy and/ or dazed
  • Paint and/ or stains on one’s clothes and/ or body
  • Red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Chemical breath odor
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Hallucinations 

Every teen is different and will likely present with a distinct set of signs and symptoms when it comes to inhalant abuse. If left untreated, inhalant abuse can lead to severe long-term consequences, including life-threatening overdose. 

Treatment Options

The first step in the treatment process for a young person who has abused inhalants will be to undergo detox, which cleanses the body of all abused substances. Depending on the needs of the teenager, continuing the recovery process by participating in a substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program may be advantageous. There are outpatient treatment programs and inpatient treatment program options available. In an outpatient substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program, participants do not reside at the treatment facility. Rather, participants will be required to attend a certain number of program hours during the day (over a specified length of time), and then return home to sleep each night. 

An inpatient treatment option will offer twenty-four-hour support to its residents for the duration of the program. At Pacific Teen Treatment, for example, we offer a residential treatment program that utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches. Some of the treatment modalities we incorporate into our treatment plans include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Pacific Teen Treatment works with each of its residents to create a tailored and unique treatment plan, catering specifically to each teen’s personal and nuanced recovery needs. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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