Airborne consumption of chemicals such as glues and aerosols is relatively common among adolescents with low socio-economic backgrounds and can be very harmful.
In this article we will see what drugs are inhaled, what types are there and what are the symptoms and the risks of poisoning and misuse of these substances.
What are inhalation drugs?
We speak of inhalation of drugs to designate a series of chemical compounds for commercial or industrial use (such as gasoline, glues or solvents) which sometimes they are aspirated because their consumption has psychoactive effects linked to its depressive activity on the central nervous system.
Although not generally linked to drug addiction and dependence, inhaling drugs can be very harmful to those who abuse them, even if they are occasional: overdoses can lead to death and chronic use is linked. to permanent physical injuries and psychological disorders. .
Inhalation drug use is more common among adolescents (especially between the ages of 9 and 15) of low socioeconomic status. Often these young people inhale the products in groups and they choose them for their low price and ease of access compared to other psychoactive substances.
These products are consumed according to different methods which depend on their physical characteristics: inhaling them in a bag, wetting the rags and sucking them through the nose and mouth, spraying directly into these routes (as in the case of aerosols), etc.
Symptoms of poisoning
The use of drugs by inhalation has depressant effects on the central nervous system; this is why their symptoms and signs are similar to those which characterize the substances such as alcohol, opiates, or anti-anxiety drugs, Sedatives and hypnotics, including benzodiazepines and barbiturates.
Thus, according to the DSM, a person can be considered poisoned by inhalants when contact with these substances causes psychological changes (eg Aggression, decreased motivation, disturbances of opinion, deficits in social interaction and decrease in academic or professional performance) at least two of the following signs:
- Dizziness, vertigo and balance disorders
- Uncontrollable and repetitive eye movements (nystagmus)
- Coordination issues motor skills
- Speech articulation alterations
- unstable march
- Fatigue, fatigue, Drowsiness and lethargy
- Deterioration of reflex movements
- psychomotor retardation
- muscular weakness widespread
- Blurred or double vision (diplopia)
- Decreased level of consciousness until stupor and even coma
- Feelings of euphoria
Other possible symptoms of intoxication are perceptual alterations and hallucinations in visual, auditory or tactile modalities, delusions, the presence of intense anxiety and distortions in the perception of time. When the central nervous system depression is very intense death from cardiac or respiratory arrest can occur.
In addition, the abuse of inhaled drugs promotes the onset of psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders or acute psychosis. In the long term, there may be a chronification of cognitive impairments which we have also mentioned permanent damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, In the liver or kidneys.
However, inhalation drugs have very low addictive potential. Cases in which the diagnostic criteria for drug addiction are met are rare and no true withdrawal syndrome has been identified (The main factor that determines addiction) associated with the discontinuation of the consumption of this type of substances.
Types of volatile substances
There are many commercial and industrial products that can be used as inhalation drugs. While the reinforcing effects of all are similar, falling under the category of depressants, they differ in their side effect profile and in the possible physical and psychological consequences linked to its consumption.
1. Methyl alcohol (methanol)
Methyl alcohol is a chemical compound used to make products such as glues, antifreeze, and solvents. It is also an alcohol with a simpler structure. Methanol abuse is associated with the onset of physical weakness, headaches and blindness between 6 and 30 hours after consumption, and can lead to death.
The most important inhalant of this class is acetone or propanone, which is used as a component of plastics, solvents, glues, glues, degreasers, drugs … Its consumption causes characteristic and severe skin irritation., Mucous membranes. and eyes. ; this phenomenon has been called “inhaler syndrome”.
Esters, such as acetate or ethyl acetate (used primarily as a solvent), have similar effects to acetone: they often cause irritation in inhaler syndrome, but not as severely as in the previous case.
The most commonly used anesthetic as an inhaled drug is trichlorethylene or TCE, which is also used to make solvents, degreasers, and stain removers, among other products. Trichlorethylene can cause permanent liver damage, In the kidneys and nerves, Especially in the cranial and more particularly the optics.
5. Aliphatic hydrocarbons
Aliphatic hydrocarbons such as hexane are found in gasoline, in solvents, and in glues and tails. Abuse of these inhalation potentials causes anemia, muscle weakness and atrophy, sensory deficits (mainly in tactile perception) and structural deterioration of the nervous system.
6. Aromatic hydrocarbons
Among these types of hydrocarbons, it should be noted toluene, gasoline component, glues, solvents and degreasers. In this case, the symptoms of severe poisoning include nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite, tremors, clouding of consciousness, jaundice and permanent damage to the liver, kidneys and system. nervous.