In this series we’ve been discussing various things teens may use to get high. So far we’ve covered alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana, and even non-chemical things like the choking game. There are so many substances out there that it would be hard to cover everything! But before we end the series, I wanted to talk a bit about inhalants.

Inhalants are substances that a person has to breath in (or inhale) in order to get a high. I recall in elementary and middle school that kids would sniff glue. In middle and high school, some kids would talk about paint fumes or inhaling gasoline. More recently, whippets (not the dog) have become a popular form of inhalant. A whippet is basically an aerosolized form of nitrous oxide or laughing gas that is breathed in to get a high. Nitrous oxide is used by dentists, but it’s also what makes the whipped cream come out of cans and is used in the air cans that clean computer keyboards. Whippets are cheap and easily available.

These seem like pretty harmless things, but when inhaled, nitrous oxide can cause euphoria, sedation, and even hallucinations. It can be dangerous if used frequently by depleting the body of vitamin B12. This can lead to nerve damage. Frequent use can also lead to addiction. Other inhalants, like gasoline and paint fumes, can also lead to nerve damage and may be irreversible.

So what are some warning signs parents can watch for?

  • Drug paraphernalia. If you seen empty aerosol cans in your teens room ask them about it.
  • A rash around the nose and mouth. In order to inhale the gases, people will often use a plastic bag wrapped around the nose and mouth. The fumes can lead to a skin irritation and a rash.

If you are concerned, talk to your teen’s healthcare provider. There are treatment options for teens with drug addiction.