Muir Wood therapist, David Laing

Paraphernalia of Inhalant Abuse & Treatment for Teens

How Many Teens Use Inhalants

the top of a spraying can

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 2.4 million people aged 12 or older reported using inhalants in the past 12 months.  An estimated 4.8% of eighth graders, 2% of tenth graders, and almost 2% of twelfth graders reported using inhalants in 2021. Sadly, these numbers are escalating every year, and are expected to continue to rise in the future. While there is a vaping epidemic and an alarming prevalence of teen inhalant abuse, there is hope.  Please read further about the dangers to teens using inhalants, and when and how you can get inhalant abuse treatment for teens.

Why Do Teens Use Inhalants

Every child is different, and so, therefore, the reasons teens try inhalants will vary according to the person.  That said, there are many factors that can make inhalants appealing to teens.  The most obvious of these is that inhalants are easily accessible.  Teens often discover that they can get a quick “high” from sniffing common household products such as glues, paint, or even felt-tip markers.  Another reason kids may try inhalants is the age-old presence of peer pressure.  Very often, teens do things they wouldn’t normally think of attempting all for the sake of looking “cool” in front of their friends or schoolmates.  As we will discover in this article, inhalant use is also easy to conceal and hard to detect, which is another attractant for teens who might innocently believe they are just vaping or inhaling to get a “quick fix.”  In reality, inhaling or huffing isn’t so innocent. As you’ll read further, you’ll understand that inhalant abuse can be deadly.

Inhalant 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 large doses. Unfortunately, most of the paraphernalia used in the practice of teen huffing/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. Contact us today for more information about teens and inhalants.

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.


Sniffing is a term for inhalant abuse when an individual breathes in or sniffs a chemical to get high. Sniffing is often considered the first step in teen inhalant abuse, and it may develop into more aggressive or more prolonged inhalation. Common household products used in sniffing include lighter fluid, paint fumes, glues, shoe polish, gasoline, cleaning products, felt-tip markers and other products.


Another term used in inhalant abuse, bagging is when a substance or chemical is doused or sprayed into a paper or plastic bag. The bag is then placed over the nose and mouth (sometimes the entire head) and the vapors are inhaled.  Not only are the chemical fumes toxic and health-harming, bagging may also lead to suffocation if the child becomes unconscious and cannot release themselves from the bag.


The term ‘chroming’ was first coined to describe the act of inhaling chrome-based paint to achieve a high.  Today, chroming has taken on a more ubiquitous meaning. Chroming can refer to inhaling highly volatile solvents such as gasses, nitrites, aerosols that contain deadly chemicals when inhaled.  More recently, there has been a surge of teens chroming deodorant aerosols, hair spray, or air fresheners.

How Paraphernalia Is Used to Abuse Inhalants by Teens

When it comes to teens drugs, breathing paraphernalia is alarmingly common. And in terms of using inhalants to get high, adolescents and teens use unexpected methods. Teens have reported some of the following methods of huffing 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.

Risks of Inhalant Abuse: Inhalant Abuse Is Deadly

Teen inhalant abuse is 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

Warning Signs of Inhalant Abuse in Teens

Because inhalant abuse is becoming increasingly more prevalent in teens, it’s important to identify the signs and symptoms of it.  Here are a few common cues that may indicate your teen is using inhalants.

  • The presence of strong, chemical odors in your child’s room, clothes, skin, or on their breath
  • Finding empty aerosol cans, solvent containers, or inhalant paraphernalia
  • Chemical or paint stains on your child’s clothes, hands, or face
  • Redness, rashes, or sores around the mouth or nose
  • Bloodshot eyes or runny nose
  • Difficulty enunciating, slurred speech
  • Vomiting, nausea, lack of appetite, weight loss
  • Confused behavior, dizziness, or a drunken appearance
  • Sudden changes in mood ranging from hyperactivity, aggression, and/or despondence 

What To Do If You Find Inhalant Paraphernalia In Your Home

In the best-case scenario, attempt to talk to your teen about inhalant abuse if you find they are in possession of inhalant paraphernalia.  However, for a myriad of reasons, your child might not be receptive to talking openly about their use of inhalants.  If this is the case, make your best effort to make your teen feel safe, and encourage them to share their feelings about the situation.  Assure your teen that you are not there to judge or punish – instead, you are there to help and support them.  You should also make your child aware of the life-threatening dangers of inhalant abuse.  

If an honest conversation cannot be established between you and your child, then consider seeking professional help.  Very often, kids are more willing to speak to a counselor or open up in a peer group therapy session more than they might share with a parent.  If you feel your child is in immediate danger, call 911, the national poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222, or contact us today.

What You Can Do to Prevent Inhalant Abuse

Your first step in preventing inhalant abuse in teens is to educate yourself about the subject. The more forewarned you are, the better forearmed you will be to handle the situation.  Secondly, make every effort to keep abusable products out of your teens reach. Lock potential inhalable products in a cabinet, or store them safely so that your teen is not in contact with these dangerous substances.  You should also talk to your child about the dangers of inhalant use, making a clear point that these substances are poisonous and potentially lethal.

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 inhalant abuse treatment for teens and substance abuse treatment center here in Northern California.

Muir Wood Is Here to Help

Teen Inhalant Paraphernalia FAQs

What is a Commonly Abused Inhalant?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nitrous oxide is the most abused inhalant. This substance can be found in whipped cream aerosol cans, butane lighters, refrigerants, propane tanks, or in products that are meant to increase speed and octane in cars.

In What Age Group Does Inhalant Abuse Peak?

According to research conducted by the National Poison Control Center, the age range for inhalant abuse is anywhere from 6 to 50 years old, but most abusers are in their teenage years. Most of these instances (73.5%) were teenage boys. The peak age of inhalant abuse is 14 years old.

Why Are Inhalants More Common With Teens Than Adults?

As mentioned earlier, young people are attracted to inhalants because they are easy to obtain. A bewildering array of household products can be used by teens as inhalants. Items as ordinary as cleaning fluid or hairspray can potentially be used as an inhalant. Alternatively, drugs and alcohol are far more difficult to obtain by teens and minors.

What Is Inhalant Use Disorder?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), inhalant use disorder is a “problematic pattern of use of a hydrocarbon-based inhalant substance leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” The DMS goes on to state that approximately 11% of high school-aged teens have used inhalants in order to obtain a “high” sensation.