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Types of Inhalants

Inhalants can be broken down into three major categories-volatile solvents, nitrites, and anesthetics.

Volatile solvents are either gases, such as butane gas fumes, or liquids, such as gasoline or paint thinner, that vaporize at room temperature. Since the 1950s, the number of common products that contain volatile solvents has increased significantly. Besides gasoline and paint thinner, products with volatile solvents include spray paint, paint and wax removers, hair spray, adroitness, air fresheners, cigarette lighter fuels, analgesic sprays, and propellant gases used in aerosols such as whipped cream dispensers.

Volatile solvents produce a quick form of intoxication-excitation followed by drowsiness, disinhibition, staggering, lightheartedness, and agitation. Because many inhalant products contain more than one volatile solvent, it is difficult to clearly identify in humans the specific chemical responsible for subsequent brain or nerve damage or death.

Some volatile solvents are inhaled by abusers because of the effects produced not by the product's primary ingredient but by propellant gases, like those used in aerosols such as hair spray or spray paint. Other volatile solvents found in aerosol products such as gold and silver spray paint are sniffed not because of the effects from propellant gases but because of the psychoactive effects caused by the specific solvents necessary to suspend these metallic paints in the spray.

Nitrites historically have been used by certain groups, largely gay men, to enhance sexual experience and pleasure. Often called "poppers' or "rush," some nitrite products are sold as room odorizers. But use of nitrites has fallen off dramatically in recent years. This may be partly because products containing butyl, propyl, and certain other nitrites were banned in 1991, although products using chemical variants of the banned substances are still sold.

Types of Inhalants Product
Adhesives model airplane glue, other glues, special elements
Aerosols spray paint, hair spray, deodorant, air freshener
Cleaning Agents dry cleaning fluid, spot remover, degreasers
Food Products whipped cream aerosols
Solvents and Gases nail polish remover, paint remover, correction fluid, lighter fluid

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