Alcohol & Drugs
A picture of Inhalants

What’s the deal with inhalants?

Inhalants are general household or industrial products that produce vapours. These are inhaled to produce an effect of feeling high. Some inhalants include aerosols, paint thinners, glues, cleaning fluid and petrol.

How does it work?

Inhalants are breathed in through the nose and mouth. People using inhalants often spray the contents of the inhalant into a container, plastic bag or bottle before using it to inhale the vapours.


 There is no such thing as a SAFE level of drug use. Substance use carries risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any form of drug, especially those that may be manufactured illegally. Drugs effect people differently based on:

  • A person’s body weight
  • General state of health
  • Regular use of substance
  • If taken in combination with other drugs including prescription medication
  • The amount that is consumed

Short Term Effects

The effects of inhalant are experienced immediately and will last for around 45 minutes. These may include:

  • Initial rush and feeling of being high
  • Increased feelings of relaxation
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Slurred speech and inability to concentrate
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Increased agitation and/or aggression
  • Headaches and drowsiness

Long Term Effects

Long term or regular use of inhalants may eventually lead to the following:

  • General irritability and depression
  • Cognitive impairment and memory loss
  • Tremors
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
  • Irregular heart beat, damage to the heart muscle or anaemia
  • Reduced liver and kidney function
  • Drug dependency

Most of the more long-term effects caused from inhalants can be reversed if the person ceases to use. However it is known that some inhalants such as cleaning products or aerosols may cause permanent damage to the body. Chemicals build up in the body over time and damage the stomach, intestines, nervous system, kidney, liver and also the brain.



Large doses of inhalant may result in overdose. Household substances and industrial chemicals are often considered harmful to the body. If you, or someone you know is feeling any of the following effects - call for an ambulance immediately. You do this simply by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers are not obliged to involve the police.

  • An irregular or racing heart beat
  • Convulsions
  • Hypertension and difficult breathing
  • Passed or passing out
  • Hallucinations
  • Symptoms of heart attack and stroke


Inhaling substances such as aerosols and cleaning fluids or certain types of glue has been known to cause sudden death. The chemicals within these products can cause heart failure.

Mixing with Other Drugs

The effect of taking inhalants in combination with other drugs including over-the-counter or prescribed medication is unpredictable and dangerous.

Inhalants + Alcohol, Benzodiazepines or Opiates will place enormous strain on the body and may affect the rate of breathing, place excess stress on the heart and blood vessels. This could result in blacking out.

Living with HIV

Interactions with HIV Medications

If you take protease inhibitors as part of your HIV treatment and are using inhalants the chances of blood pressure complications will increase drastically.

Taking Hormones

For trans, gender diverse or intersex people who are taking some form of hormone therapy, it's important to be aware and informed of how your body processes these treatments.

Currently, there is limited information into the interactions and cross interactions of hormone therapy and recreational drug use but that doesn't mean we'll stop asking for it. Whether your hormones are prescribed by a doctor or you've sourced them yourself from the internet, make it a priority to get regular health checks. Sometimes, a change in dosage or preparation of hormones is needed and a qualified medical practitioner is the person best placed to advise you of this.

If you're not comfortable talking about your gender, gender identity or bodily difference with your doctor, get in touch and we can make recommendations for a service that is best placed to support your needs.

Interactions with Hormones

We don't know of any negative interactions between inhalants and hormone treatments. This does not mean that it is safe. Exercise caution when mixing any form of drugs.


Been going a little too hard lately? If your inhalant use has begun to have a negative impact on your overall health or your relationships with family and friends, your ability to focus on work or study or perhaps even the bottom line on your bank account - it's time to TouchBase with somebody who can help.

There are a number of treatment options and support services available for you, for your family or friends if they need it.

Whatever your recovery goals are, if it is to control, reduce or stop inhalant use, reach out for some support.

Counselling & Support

This is the most common kind of treatment, and there are a number of different approaches that might be taken. These might involve talking through your problems, learning to change the way you think, or thinking about how you might deal with difficult situations.

Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, and is available both to people who use AOD, and to their family members or support people. A support service can offer counselling or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Speak to your doctor, AOD treatment service or local community health service.

Find help and support services.


Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve an AOD-free lifestyle.

Residential programs can last from a few weeks to a number of years. No withdrawal medication is provided in the centres, so it is very important that you have already successfully completed your withdrawal treatment.

Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Complementary therapies

These include treatments such as massage and relaxation therapies, which can be useful to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. Some herbal or natural remedies can also help, but you should first seek advice from your doctor or treatment service because withdrawing from alcohol and some drugs can be life-threatening.

Peer support 

These programs are provided both for people who use AOD, and their family members or support person. They are usually established by people who have had personal experience with AOD, and are often based on the Twelve-step Program model. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two examples of these.


Substitution pharmacotherapy is the use of medication to replace a harmful drug. This is given as a legal, measured, prescribed dose of a drug, and helps take away cravings so that you can work on other issues that will help you to recover.

Pharmacotherapy is only available for withdrawal from some drugs. For example, buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone are used in the treatment of opioid dependence.

Your doctor or treatment service can give you more information about what is available to help you.

Withdrawal & Rehab

Giving up inhalants after using them for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without them. Withdrawal symptoms will usually start 24 to 48 hours after last use. The symptoms of withdrawal may last for 2 to 5 days after. These symptoms can include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Body tremors and muscle cramps
  • Hallucinations and visual disturbances
Important notice

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about Inhalants should consult a health professional.