Inhalant Detox

Inhalant detox is necessary for any individual with a dependence and those who experience withdrawal symptoms like insomnia and mood changes.

What Is Inhalant Detox?

Inhalant detox the the first step in overcoming an inhalant addiction. Inhalants are a category of substances that can be inhaled or “bagged,” snorted or sniffed, or “huffed” through a soaked rag. This class of drug encompass a variety of hazardous solvents, aerosols, gases, and nitrites. Inhalants can generally be purchased legally, though they produce psychoactive effects when inhaled. They also cause a release of dopamine in the brain’s reward system (similar to Opioids and alcohol) that can be extremely addictive. Inhalant detox is necessary to overcome the potential consequences of inhalant addiction such as drug cravings, organ damage, and dementia.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults who use inhalants qualify for a diagnosis of inhalant use disorder or dependence.

Detox is the process of cleansing the body of harmful substances. Though the effect of inhalants is relatively short (lasting minutes), the damage they cause can be permanent. For example, common inhalant chemicals like toluene or naphthalene (found in mothballs) can cause nerve damage over time similar to multiple sclerosis. Accordingly, the process of inhalant detox focuses on identifying any peripheral substance abuse damage around the body and eliminating withdrawal symptoms.

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Inhalant Withdrawal

Inhalant Use Disorder (IUD) was first categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4thedition (DSM-IV), with little information about associated symptoms of withdrawal. Since the DSM-IVs release (alongside additional information in the DSM-V), a range of withdrawal symptoms have been observed in inhalant-dependent individuals. Symptoms of inhalant withdrawal most closely resemble those of alcohol withdrawal, such as nausea and sweating. However, due to the range of chemicals involved in inhalant abuse, symptoms may vary from person to person and depending on length of use.

Physical symptoms of inhalant withdrawal include:
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Runny eyes or nose
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
Mental symptoms of inhalant withdrawal include:
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in mood
  • Cravings for inhalants
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Inattentiveness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness

One study found that after repeated abuse of certain, volatile solvents withdrawal symptoms also included seizures.

How Do I Know If I Need Inhalant Detox?

Any individual who abuses inhalants needs may need to attend an inhalant detox program. Substance abuse often leads to self-destructive patterns of behavior that include neglecting responsibilities, legal problems, and engaging in acts hazardous to one’s health.

To qualify for a diagnosable inhalant dependence that requires detox, individuals need to meet 3 of 5 criteria, including:
  • Developed a tolerance
  • Taking inhalants in larger amounts over longer periods of time
  • Unsuccessful attempts to reduce inhalant use
  • Spending increasing amounts of time to obtain inhalants or recover from use
  • Neglecting or losing interest in former activities
  • Continuing to use inhalants despite knowledge of negative effects

What Happens During an Inhalant Detox Program?

Inhalant Detox Is the Necessary First Step Towards Getting Your Life BackInhalant detox programs address the individual’s addiction from both the biological and psychological aspects. Initial phases of detox will include treatment of withdrawal symptoms until the body is free of substances. During this time, a team of medical professionals will work with the individual to develop an addiction treatment plan, identify any comorbid disorders (such as HIV), and motivate them to make lifestyle changes.

Since most people who abuse inhalants begin doing so at an early age (between 12 and 17 years-old) a number of youth-based rehab programs offer addiction treatment for inhalant use. Traumatic experiences, parental neglect, and the availability of inhalants are a couple of reasons a child might start using inhalants. Counseling may be beneficial in helping an individual recover following the detox phase of rehab. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to help people develop coping strategies and improve mental health.

One study found that up to 84% of inhalant users also qualified for Marijuana or Alcohol Use Disorder. Therefore, treating an inhalant addiction during youth can help prevent the development of other substance use disorders as an adult.

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