Sniffing and Snorting Dangers?

The variety of substances that are abused on a daily basis could surprise many. While drugs – both illegal and prescription – are often abused, as well as alcohol, there are a number of other substances that have made their mark.  The murky world of substance abuse that is no longer restricted to cocaine, marijuana, heroin, Ecstasy and the like. Concern over this disturbing trend is growing as many children are suffering the inevitable health consequences of these habits. The frightening part is that the kids don’t realize that these seemingly innocuous habits damage the health as much as smoking marijuana and doing cocaine

For one Indian boy, that substance is whitener ink. At lunch break every day, the student doesn’t open his tiffin box. Instead, he rushes to the fields behind his school somewhere and vigorously sniffs his handkerchief to get high on the whitener he has poured into it.

The dark truth about whiteners is that this slow poison is a stationery product available ubiquitously for just Rs.27 for 15ml. Shops close to school campuses stock whiteners. There’s no control over the sale of whiteners as it is not a drug under the purview of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Whitener is abused as an inhalant in India. Whitener exerts its effects through trichloroethane, a volatile solvent. Inhalants include other substances such as petrol and toluene. These substances are cheap, accessible and readily available to children and adolescents. 

Inhalants are volatile (easily evaporated at normal temperatures) substances that produce chemical vapors that can be inhaled to induce a psychoactive, or mind-altering, effect. People from both urban and rural settings abuse inhalants

Young people abuse volatile solvents by deliberately inhaling available vapours 15–20 times over 10-15 minutes.

Inhaled organic solvents like toluene cross from the blood into the brain within minutes. In the brain cells, solvents act on specific receptors to produce effects similar to those of alcohol. Toluene is a common solvent in thinner and paint. Toluene enhances dopamine release.

Multiple Gateways to The Harm-

Inhalants can be breathed in through the nose or the mouth in a variety of ways, such as—

  • “sniffing” or “snorting” fumes from containers;
  • spraying aerosols directly into the nose or mouth;
  • “bagging” — sniffing or inhaling fumes from substances sprayed or deposited inside a plastic or paper bag;
  • “huffing” from an inhalant-soaked rag stuffed in the mouth; and
  • inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide.


The Hazardous and The Hazards –

Common household items that are used as inhalants and are extremely dangerous include:

  • Nail polish remover
  • Canned air
  • Rubber cement
  • Spray paint
  • Paint thinners
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Air fresheners
  • Butane
  • Cooking spray
  • Whipped cream cartridges or cans

Almost any product that is in a pressurized container can be used as an inhalant. Products such as glue, markers, and rubber cement may not be pressurized, but they still produce powerful vapors that are extremely dangerous when inhaled.

Even though many of these products have different ingredients, they all produce similar effects.

Benzene (found in gasoline), butane, propane (found in lighter fluid, hair and paint sprays), Freon (used as a refrigerant and aerosol propellant), methylene chloride (found in paint thinners and removers, degreasers), toluene (found in gasoline, paint thinners and removers, correction fluid), trichloroethylene (found in spot removers, degreasers) can cause reduction of oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, changes to the heart muscle and heartbeat, brain damage (loss of brain tissue mass, impaired cognition, loss of coordination, kidney damage, increased risk of leukemia, cirrhosis of the liver, reproductive complications, hearing and vision damage and respiratory obstruction. Inhalant abuse can even cause death by—

  • asphyxiation — from repeated inhalations that lead to high concentrations of inhaled fumes, which displace available oxygen in the lungs
  • suffocation — from blocking air from entering the lungs when inhaling fumes from a plastic bag placed over the head
  • convulsions or seizures — from abnormal electrical discharges in the brain;
  • coma — from the brain shutting down all but the most vital functions;
  • choking — from inhalation of vomit after inhalant use
  • fatal injury — from accidents, including motor vehicle fatalities, suffered while intoxicated.


Be informed. Beware.





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