Inhalants are breathable chemical vapors often found in common household products that contain volatile solvents or aerosols. Inhalants fall into four major categories:
Volatile solvents are industrial, household, art or office supply solvents or solvent-containing products. They include paint thinners or removers, degreasers, dry-cleaning fluids, gasoline, correction fluids, felt-tip-marker fluid, and electronic contact cleaners.
Aerosols are household aerosol propellants and associated solvents in items such as spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays, fabric protector sprays, aerosol computer cleaning products, and vegetable oil sprays.
These are gases used in household or commercial products, including butane lighters and propane tanks, whipping cream aerosols or dispensers (whippets), and refrigerant gases, medical anesthetic gases, such as ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas).
Organic nitrites are volatiles that include cyclohexyl, butyl, and amyl nitrites, commonly known as “poppers.” Amyl nitrite is still used in some medicine procedures. Volatile nitrites are often sold in small brown bottles labeled as “video head cleaner,” “room odorizer,” “leather cleaner” or “liquid aroma.”
Sudden Sniffing Death
Sudden Sniffing Death can result from a single session of inhalant, even in healthy individuals. This is often associated with the abuse of butane, propane, and chemicals in aerosols.
Inhalants and Suffocation
High concentrations of inhalants also can cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing ceases. Deliberately inhaling from a paper or plastic bag or in a closed area greatly increases the chances of suffocation.