Nitrites work differently. Instead of slowing down the brain and the spinal cord, they increase the size of blood vessels and relax the muscles. Because inhalants are found in most homes, people don't realize they are incredibly addictive. People who become addicted to using inhalants are likely to become long-term users. This puts them at risk for the following health problems:
•brain damage (toxic chemicals may make people become slow or clumsy, have trouble solving problems or planning ahead, suffer from memory loss, or become unable to learn new things)
•headaches and nosebleeds
•loss of sense of smell or hearing
How Inhalants Kill
Like most street drugs, inhalants can be deadly. Someone can die from abusing inhalants after trying it only once. Causes of death include:
•"Sudden Sniffing Death" — This is the most common cause of death from inhalant use. The heart beats quickly and irregularly, and then suddenly stops (cardiac arrest).
•Asphyxia — Toxic fumes replace oxygen in the lungs so that a person stops breathing.
•Choking — A user can choke on his or her vomit.
•Suffocation — When vapors are inhaled from a plastic bag placed over the head, the bag can block air.
•Injuries — Since people high on inhalants often make poor decisions, they might try to drive under the influence or do something irrational, such as jump off a roof. They could also get burned or start explosions if a spark ignites flammable inhalants.
•Suicide — Some people become depressed when their high wears off.
Signs of Inhalant Abuse
Inhalants, like other drugs, have noticeable effects on those using them. Someone on inhalants may suffer from a number of different ill effects, including:
•extreme anger, agitation, and irritability
•loss of appetite
•hallucinations and illusions
•facial rashes and blisters
•frequent nose running and coughing
•extremely bad breath
Of course, some of these things are signs of other health problems, not necessarily inhalant use. If you're worried about a friend or loved one, talk to a parent, school counselor, or your doctor or school nurse.
If you think you — or a friend — may be addicted to inhalants, talk to your doctor, school counselor, or nurse. They can help you get the help you need. Several kinds of treatment are available for drug addiction; the two main categories are behavioral (helping a person change behaviors) and pharmacological (treating a person with medication). Treatment for inhalant addiction is primarily behavioral. An expert in drug treatment teaches people how to function without drugs — handling cravings, avoiding situations that could lead to inhalant use, and preventing and handling relapses. As with any addiction, it can be difficult to stop without professional help and treatment. Overcoming an addiction is not something that can be done alone; everyone needs support. The experts who help people with addictions are trained to help, not judge. To find a drug treatment center in your area, check out the yellow pages or ask a counselor for advice.
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