Skip to main content

What Is Huffing? Signs and Symptoms


teenage boy huffing inhalants

Huffing is synonymous with inhalant abuse and involves inhaling (or huffing) fumes from various household products. 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.). Because many inhalants are commonly found in household products, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does not classify them as a Scheduled Controlled Substance. Inhalants are easily accessible and as such, there is a common misconception that they are relatively harmless. 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

Teens that abuse inhalants breathe them in through the nose or mouth to attain a feeling of euphoria. Abusing inhalants can elicit similar effects to alcohol intoxication. It is important to note that a teen is at increased risk of developing harmful short and long-term effects every time he or she abuses inhalants. There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can be indicative of a young person huffing. Common examples include, but are not limited to the following, provided by Cleveland Clinic:

  • Changes in behavior including apathy
  • Chemical odors on the breath or clothes
  • Rapid decline in school performance
  • Significant decrease in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Poor hygiene and grooming habits
  • Sudden change in friends and hobbies
  • Runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Slurred speech
  • Ulcers or irritation around the nose and mouth
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Hostility
  • Paranoia 

Every teen is different and will exhibit a unique set of signs and symptoms with varying levels of severity and duration when it comes to huffing. If left untreated, inhalant abuse can lead to severe long-term consequences, including overdose, and some in cases death. 

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

Close Menu
Back to top