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Inhalant abuse in children and adolescents

Holly Perry, MD
Section Editor
Michele M Burns, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Inhalants are substances with significant acute and chronic toxicity that are abused for their intoxicating properties. They have a wide variety of chemical structures with the majority being hydrocarbons (aliphatic, aromatic, or halogenated), nitrites, or nitrous oxide [1]. Inhalants are similar in that they are all volatile substances, highly lipid soluble, and readily absorbed across the pulmonary bed.

Inhalant abuse is a common problem in adolescents due to several factors:

Inhalants are readily accessible: An average home has between 30 and 50 products with abuse potential.

They are inexpensive and legal to buy and possess.

The perceived risk of use is low [2].

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 30, 2016.
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