What are inhalants?

Inhalants are breathable chemical vapors that produce mind-altering effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down the body's functions. The fumes are inhaled from a paper bag or by soaking a rag in the chemical. Inhalants fall into three categories:

Nitrites include amyl nitrite (poppers) and butyl nitrites (Rush, Locker Room). Their effects include:

  • A brief high caused by both oxygen deprivation and the dilation of blood vessels.
  • Giddiness, a pounding heartbeat, headaches and dizziness.
  • Nitrites can be deadly if swallowed accidentally. They affect the blood's ability to carry oxygen.
  • Repeated use of nitrites can lead to tolerance, and the user will experience withdrawal when they stop.

Gases include nitrous oxide (whippets), ether, chloroform, gases from household products such as spray paints, deodorant sprays and butane lighters. Their effects include:

  • Feeling giddy
  • Loss of consciousness (many head injuries are associated with this)
  • When the gasses escape from their container, they expand and can injure the mouth, throat and lungs.
  • Long-term effects can include numbness, tingling, and weakness as a result of nerve damage.

Solvents include paint thinners, glues, correction fluid, degreasers and gasoline. Their effects include:

  • A very brief high which can vary from feeling numb to feeling drunk
  • Delusions, loss of coordination, vomiting and suppressed breathing
  • Long-term effects such as depression, kidney and liver failure, and bone marrow damage

Death. Solvents are so toxic that death can result the first time they are used. A British study of 1,000 deaths from inhalant use found that 200 of the deaths were to first-time users.

Adapted from Facts on Tap

How do I help a friend who's having trouble with drugs or alcohol?

If you are concerned about a friend's drug or alcohol use, this page contains information about different ways to help them.

Resources at UCSC

Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Student Health Outreach & Promotion (SHOP)
SHOP provides confidential appointments for drug or alcohol concerns. SHOP is located in the Student Health Center, across the street from Colleges 9 & 10. As you walk up the ramp to the Health Center, SHOP is located in the building on your left, next to the Pharmacy.

Student Health Services
Confidential walk-in or appointment health care

Counseling & Psychological Services
CAPS staff provides the UCSC community with a wide range of mental health services, including short-term individual and couples counseling, group counseling, crisis assessment and intervention, and referral services.

Resources in Santa Cruz

Recovery Wave
Santa Cruz County's Alcohol and Drug Abuse help pages. If you think that you, a family member, or a friend has an alcohol or drug problem, you've come to the right place.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

Narcotics Anonymous
831-429-7436 HOTLINE (24 hour) 
Call for current open meeting schedules. Disabled Accessibility. 

Marijuana Anonymous
P.O. Box 1481
Santa Cruz, CA 95061 
SC Hotline/Meetings: 
Self-help (non-religious) fellowship group for those who cannot control their marijuana use and are experiencing adverse effects in other areas of their life. No fee is charged.

Links You Can Use

National Inhalant Prevention Coalition
The FAQ section includes statistics on inhalant use, damage to the body and brain and how to help someone in a crisis. Information is also provided in Spanish.

Dance Safe
Dance Safe is a harm-reduction web site centered on drugs found in nightclubs and raves. The site offers drug information, a risk assessment, ecstasy testing kits and e-news.

National Institute of Drug Abuse 
NIDA provides research reports, answers commonly-asked questions and gives related links.