Inhalant-Related Disorders

Amy Tao, M.D.
Inhalant-Related Disorders is a topic covered in the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide.

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DEFINITION

Inhalants of abuse are characterized by low vapor pressure and high volatility at room temperature, but there are large differences between different classes of chemicals, which include[1]:

  • Volatile anesthetics: i.e., isoflurane, chloroform, ether, halothane; enhances GABA and inhibits glutamanergic signals
  • Nitrous oxide: Street names include "laughing gas" and "whippets"; enhances opioid and GABA signals, inhibits NMDA glutamate receptors
  • Alkyl nitrites: i.e., computer duster spray, hair spray; street name "poppers"; stimulates release of nitric oxide and activation of cGMP causing vasodilation and smooth muscle relaxation, primarily used to enhance sexual experiences
  • Volatile solvents: i.e., nail polish remover, glue, paint thinner, gasoline; most commonly abused class of inhalants

Clues that may help to diagnose inhalant use disorder include[2]:

  • Behavioral changes such as isolation and/or deviation from normal activities at home, work, or school.
  • Over time, inhalants are used in greater quantities and for a longer duration despite efforts to decrease or quit.
  • There can be a craving, or drive, to use the inhalant.
  • Use is maintained despite detrimental effects on social, occupational and educational responsibilities, as well as physical and mental health.
  • Tolerance can occur, in that more inhalant use is needed to become intoxicated.

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or --

DEFINITION

Inhalants of abuse are characterized by low vapor pressure and high volatility at room temperature, but there are large differences between different classes of chemicals, which include[1]:

  • Volatile anesthetics: i.e., isoflurane, chloroform, ether, halothane; enhances GABA and inhibits glutamanergic signals
  • Nitrous oxide: Street names include "laughing gas" and "whippets"; enhances opioid and GABA signals, inhibits NMDA glutamate receptors
  • Alkyl nitrites: i.e., computer duster spray, hair spray; street name "poppers"; stimulates release of nitric oxide and activation of cGMP causing vasodilation and smooth muscle relaxation, primarily used to enhance sexual experiences
  • Volatile solvents: i.e., nail polish remover, glue, paint thinner, gasoline; most commonly abused class of inhalants

Clues that may help to diagnose inhalant use disorder include[2]:

  • Behavioral changes such as isolation and/or deviation from normal activities at home, work, or school.
  • Over time, inhalants are used in greater quantities and for a longer duration despite efforts to decrease or quit.
  • There can be a craving, or drive, to use the inhalant.
  • Use is maintained despite detrimental effects on social, occupational and educational responsibilities, as well as physical and mental health.
  • Tolerance can occur, in that more inhalant use is needed to become intoxicated.

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Last updated: May 2, 2017