Solvents are base solutions such as paint thinners, gases, glues, aerosols, lighter fluid and cleaning liquids. These solvents all emit chemicals that can be toxic if inhaled or ingested. These products are designed for household or commercial use and have been shown to cause solvent addiction when they are inhaled for their euphoric effects. Many of these are household products which makes them extremely accessible and inexpensive for anyone including children and young adults to misuse. Also, because solvents are not controlled substances and therefore legal to acquire in almost any volume, regulating the use of them in the home or work environment is difficult.

The most commonly abused solvents include:

  • Model airplane glue
  • Shoe polish
  • Gasoline
  • Butane Lighter fluid
  • Nail polish remover
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Paint thinners and removers
  • Correction Fluids
  • Electronic contact cleaners
  • Aerosols (sprays) such as paints, vegetable oil, hair, deodorant, fabric protector and fabric glue, furniture polish, whipped cream etc.
  • Propane gas
  • Refrigerator gasses
  • Medical anesthetics, such as ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
  • Organic nitrites are volatiles and include video head cleaner, room odorizer and leather cleaner,

How Solvents are Used

Solvents are called inhalants which describes the way they are primarily ingested. Users sniff, snort, or inhale deeply pulling the fumes or toxic emissions from a bag, container or balloon through the mouth or nose. These various inhalation methods are also referred to as huffing. Some users even place a chemically soaked rag directly inside the mouth. The use of solvents as inhalants are referred to by various slang names such as:

  • Air blast
  • Bagging
  • Bang
  • Bullet Bolt
  • Huffing
  • High Ball
  • Glading
  • Quicksilver
  • Snotballs
  • Whiteout

Common Reactions 

Although reactions are based on the type and composition of the solvent being used, the most common reactions reported include:

  • Slurred speech,
  • Physical imbalance
  • Euphoria
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheaded
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache

Signs of Solvent Abuse or Addiction

  • Having a lot of butane lighters
  • Spots or sores around the lips or in the mouth
  • Red or runny eyes and nose
  • Paint stains on the clothes or body
  • Breath has a chemical odor
  • Seem dazed or drunk
  • Lying about solvent abuse
  • Using solvents secretly

Adverse Effects

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), solvents addiction can have a similar impact on the central nervous system as alcohol. Habitual long term use of solvents can result in brain, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, or bone marrow damage. It is also not unusual for users to experience loss of coordination and limb spasms due to damage to the protective sheathing around nerve fibers that helps nerves transmit messages in the brain and peripheral nervous system. The lungs are especially susceptible to damage from toxic inhalants. Damage occurs if air develops in the chest when pressurized gas is inhaled. Solvents can cause breathing problems and chest tightness. Solvent addiction also cause muscle wasting, reduced muscle tone and loss of muscle strength.

NIDA also warns that inhalation of concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays may result in heart failure within minutes. A condition known as “sudden sniffing death syndrome” can occur from a first time or sign huffing session. Individuals have also suffocated from high concentrations of inhalants. This typically happens when a plastic or paper bag is used in a small unventilated area.


Solvent addiction remains a shadowy condition for which treatment is not always readily available. People caught up in this addiction need specialized help. When treatment is needed for inhalant abuse, seek a rehab treatment center that also offers dual diagnosis treatment.

If you or a loved one is caught up in solvent abuse, our Drug Rehab Treatment Centers today at 877-855-3470. We can help you find a treatment program that is right for you.