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Would you be surprised to learn that some of the most toxic substances that kids and teens abuse are common household products? Items such as glue, shoe polish, and cleaning fluids can cause intoxication when inhaled and have devastating adverse effects.


People taking inhalants can have trouble solving complex problems and planning ahead, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They might start losing control over their movement and coordination or be unable to learn new things or follow simple conversations. Long-term, regular abuse of inhalants can damage the brain, liver, heart, kidneys, and lungs. A single session of repeated inhalations-the "high" lasts only a few minutes-can lead to cardiopulmonary arrest and death.


The products teens may turn to include:


* solvents, such as paint thinners or removers, degreasers, gasoline, dry-cleaning fluids, glue, correction fluids, and felt-tip markers


* gas inhalants, which are found in butane lighters and propane tanks, whipped cream aerosols or dispensers ("whippets"), spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, and fabric protector sprays


* nitrites ("poppers"), which are available illegally and come in small brown bottles, sometimes labeled video head cleaner, room deodorizer, or liquid aroma.



Early identification and intervention remain the best ways to stop inhalant abuse before it causes serious health problems. Parents should store household products carefully to prevent accidental inhalation by young children-or deliberate abuse by older ones.


Nurses, parents, educators, and other health care providers should be alert to the following signs of an inhalant abuse problem:


* chemical odors in breath or clothing


* paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes


* hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing


* drunk or disoriented appearance


* slurred speech


* inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression


* nausea or loss of appetite.



To get help finding treatment for someone abusing inhalants, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP or visit For more information, visit