Muir Wood therapist, David Laing
Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services is a Joint Commission-accredited mental health and substance use disorder treatment provider located in Petaluma, California. We provide integrated evidence-based care including psychiatry, psychotherapy, experiential therapy, wellness services, and milieu therapy for adolescents and teens, and their family members.

Paraphernalia of Inhalant Abuse

Paraphernalia used for inhalant abuse includes any item used to aid in the ingestion of hazardous chemicals that can produce a high when breathed in in large doses. Unfortunately, most of the paraphernalia used in the practice of inhalant abuse are household items that parents may not immediately identify as a paraphernalia item. These items are often used:

  • Plastic bags
  • Paper bags
  • Bandanas or scarves
  • Clothing
  • Cotton balls or cotton swabs
  • Cloth diapers
  • Soda cans
  • Balloons
  • Cardboard box
  • Aerosol cans

Additionally, the items used to get high, the intoxicating chemicals themselves, are also household items and many parents may not even realize that their son is using these things for this purpose. They include:

  • Markers
  • Chemicals in aerosol cans of any kind
  • Freon from the air conditioner
  • Butane lighters
  • Coolant
  • Nitrous oxide

Inhalants are the number one substances abused by adolescents and younger teens. If you find any of these items in your teen’s belongings, notice odd marks around their mouth or nose, or find that they often have a strange chemical smell to their clothes or hair, don’t ignore it. Take action to help them stop abusing inhalants today.

At Muir Wood, we offer a boys-only substance abuse treatment program designed to help teens stop abusing illicit substances and start building their self-confidence and abilities to make positive and healthy decisions that prioritize wellness. Contact us today for more information.


Huffing is the common term used among adolescents and teens who abuse inhalants with the intention of getting high off the fumes. There are more ways to get high using common household cleaners and chemicals than there are chemicals themselves. In different regions, certain methods of inhalant abuse are more popular, so your son’s choices may be determined based on what he sees around him.

All methods of huffing are life-threatening. Kids can die or suffer severe and life-altering brain damage the first time they try it. It’s important that parents who suspect their child is abusing inhalants take immediate action in order to avoid a devastating outcome.

How Paraphernalia Is Used to Abuse Inhalants

When it comes to using inhalants to get high, adolescents and teens use unexpected methods. Teens have reported some of the following methods of paraphernalia use in inhalant abuse:

  • Clothing, bandanna, scarf, diaper, etc. Teens may douse a cloth item in gas or an intoxicating chemical, hold it over their face and breathe in the fumes. Some kids put a chemical on their collar or scarf and then wear it to school and breathe it in periodically throughout the day to get high. Others soak a cloth item and then put it in their mouth.
  • Paper bags or plastic bags. Teens may spray an intoxicant into a bag and hold it over their mouth and nose to breathe in the fumes.
  • Cotton swabs and balls. Kids may soak a cotton swab or cotton ball in a liquid chemical and then put the cotton into their nose.
  • Fingernails. Occasionally, both boys and girls will paint their nails with a chemical substance and then stick their fingers in their nose or mouth to inhale the fumes.
  • Cardboard box, closet, car or other enclosed space. Kids may spray large amounts of a chemical or open a chemical container in an enclosed area.
  • Markers, fingernail polish remover, etc. A number of different inhalants are huffed directly from their original container without use of any other paraphernalia.
  • Spray cans. Inverting an aerosol can before spraying it allows the intoxicating fumes to escape and leaves other liquids inside.
  • Balloons. Balloons can be filled with nitrous oxide, butane or other gases, and then breathed in quickly.
  • Soda cans. Soda cans and other containers can be filled with a noxious liquid allowing kids to breathe in the fumes directly through the opening.

Inhalant Abuse Is Deadly

Inhalants are arguably some of the most deadly illicit substances of abuse because they can cause immediate brain damage and death. They are deadly in a number of different ways including:

  • Suffocation, when a child’s face is covered by the plastic bag and they are unconscious or too intoxicated to get it off
  • Choking, when a child passes out and vomits, choking on their own vomit while unconscious
  • Lack of oxygen, when the fumes replace the oxygen in a small enclosed space
  • Lack of oxygen, when the lungs are filled to capacity with fumes rather than oxygen
  • Explosion of combustible substances
  • Cardiac arrest caused by caustic fumes
  • Allergies to the chemicals
  • Accidents under the influence

Stop Inhalant Abuse Today

At Muir Wood, we can help your teen get back on track, learn how to stop making life-threatening decisions, and begin choosing positive activities and friendships. Call now to learn more about our boy-centered substance abuse treatment center here in Northern California.