Withdrawal Symptoms for Inhalants and How to Cope with Them

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Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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Withdrawal Symptoms for Inhalants

Inhalant Addiction: What is It?

Inhalants are among the most common and detrimental forms of substance use. Inhalant use is associated with harmful outcomes that rival or exceed those of other drugs of abuse.

Inhalants are chemicals produced by substances found in certain items used in homes or workplaces. Inhaling these vapors intentionally can cause changes in the brain.

Breathing in substances rapidly enters the brain, resulting in a quick start of intoxication. Continued misuse of inhalants can result in lasting effects, such as coma and mortality.

The highest rate of inhalant abuse occurs between the ages of 14 and 15. Nevertheless, mistreatment is observed in children aged 5 to 6 years.

Abuse often decreases between the ages of 17 and 19 in numerous instances. Nevertheless, maltreatment can persist throughout one’s adult life. Males are more likely than females to abuse inhalants.

Causes and Dangers

More than 1,000 household and workplace products are frequently misused as inhalants. Inhalants are affordable, accessible, discreet, and lawful. The convenience and minimal price of inhalants are appealing and within budget, especially for young kids and teenagers or individuals in lower socio-economic classes.

There are four categories of inhalants: volatile solvents, aerosols, gasses, and nitrites. These typically offer immediate and intense effects in their euphorias or “highs’, leading to repeated use and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Addiction

Inhalants depress the central nervous system, producing short-term side effects similar to that seen with drinking alcohol, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Lightheadedness
  • Intense feelings of happiness
  • Agitation
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Excitability
  • Loss of coordination
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Mucous membrane irritation
  • Sudden death (irregular and rapid heartbeat that leads to sudden heart failure)

Inhalants damage nerve fibers that keep the brain and body working properly. They also damage brain cells by limiting the amount of oxygen that reaches it. The effects could include:

  • Memory problems
  • Personality changes
  • Learning disabilities
  • Hallucination
  • Speaking problems
  • Complex problem-solving and planning and organization problems
  • Vision problems
  • Movement problems (walking problems, muscle spasms and tremors, slow or clumsy movements)

Long-term side effects include:

  • Lung damage
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Weakened immune system
  • Seizures
  • Limb spasms
  • Brain damage
  • Heart rhythm changes
  • Coma
  • Death

What is Inhalant Withdrawal?

Symptoms of Inhalant Withdrawal

Inhalant dependence and withdrawal is poorly understood. Some people who use inhalants regularly develop dependence, while others do not. Among heavy users, only some will experience withdrawal symptoms.[1]

Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can be clinically significant among heavy inhalant users, resembling the nature and severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. [2]

Inhalant withdrawal symptoms can begin anywhere between a few hours to a few days after ceasing inhalant use. Symptoms may last for only 2-3 days, or may last for up to two weeks.

Symptoms include [3]:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting, hallucinations, runny eyes or nose, craving, fast heart beat, depressed mood, and anxiety during withdrawal 
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness, inattentiveness, anxiety, insomnia, and high levels of craving
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unstable Mood 
  • Sleep Disturbance. Falling asleep during the day
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

In the acute phase, patients withdrawing from inhalants should be observed every three-four hours to assess for complications such as hallucinations, which may require medication. 

Withdrawal symptoms may occur in the first 24-48 hours after stopping using inhalants and may last up to a week or more. Patients in withdrawal may be feeling anxious or scared. Some may become disruptive and difficult to manage.

Withdrawal symptoms vary but often include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety and insomnia.

For up to a month after ceasing inhalant use, the patient may experience confusion and have difficulty concentrating. This should be taken into consideration in planning treatment involvement.

Treatments for Inhalant Addiction

Treatments for Inhalant Addiction

Treatment methods for inhalant abuse are similar to those for other addictive behaviors, including:

  • Motivational interventions: This counseling style helps teens gain their own motivation to commit to change.
  • Family counseling: This therapy focuses on improving communication, relationships, actions and behaviors between family members.
  • Activity and engagement programs: These programs provide new skills and social experiences and offer an alternative choice to inhalant use. Programs include such activities as movie nights, dances, hiking, and more. These types of programs play an important role in maintaining substance-free life by helping teens engage in new social relationships with others who are non-users.
  • Life skills training: This focuses on increasing self-esteem and communication, improving personal relationships, and managing anxiety and pressure.
  • Support groups and 12-step programs: These groups, like alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous, help reduce the risk of relapse and help maintain a substance-free life.


[1] Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009.

[2] Perron BE, Howard MO, Vaughn MG, Jarman CN. Inhalant withdrawal as a clinically significant feature of inhalant dependence disorder. Med Hypotheses. 2009 Dec;73(6):935-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.06.036. 

[3] Perron BE, Glass JE, Ahmedani BK, Vaughn MG, Roberts DE, Wu LT. The prevalence and clinical significance of inhalant withdrawal symptoms among a national sample. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2011 Apr;2011(2):69-76. doi: 10.2147/SAR.S14937.

Administrator / Chief Clinical Officer
Certified cognitive-behavioral therapist, expert addiction and chemical dependency counselor, certified for more than twenty years of experience in adolescent, adult and family psychotherapy.
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