Sniffing Glue and Sharpies

Published: December 19, 2013
Dear TeenHealthFX,

How bad is sniffing glue and sharpies really for you? Can it hurt you the first time? Worse then smoking cigarettes?

Dear Sniffing Glue and Sharpies,

Sniffing glue, Sharpies and other inhalants is often referred to as “huffing” and is a serious problem. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were 793,000 persons aged 12 or older who had used inhalants for the first time within the past 12 months. Although many abused substances can be inhaled, the term "inhalants" is used to describe a variety of substances whose main characteristic is that they are only taken by way of inhalation.

Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. Solvents and gases inhaled in sufficient amounts nearly always produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. The chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and quickly reach the brain and other organs, sometimes causing irreversible physical and mental damage.

Users inhale the chemical vapors directly from open containers (“sniffing”) or breathe the fumes from rags soaked in chemicals (“huffing”). Some spray the substance directly into the nose or mouth, or pour it onto their collar, sleeves or cuffs and sniff them periodically. In “bagging,” the user may inhale fumes from substances inside a paper or plastic bag.

Most inhalants act directly on the nervous system to produce mind-altering effects. Within seconds, the user experiences intoxication and other effects similar to those from alcohol. There are a variety of effects that may be experienced during or shortly after use, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drunk, dizzy or dazed appearance
  • Inability to coordinate movement
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Hostility
  • Apathy
  • Impaired judgment
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe headaches
  • Rashes around the nose and mouth
  • Prolonged sniffing of these chemicals can induce irregular and rapid heartbeat and lead to heart failure and death within minutes.
  • Death from suffocation can occur by replacing oxygen in the lungs with the chemical, and then in the central nervous system, so that breathing ceases.

Long-term users have experienced:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain
  • Memory impairment, diminished intelligence
  • Hearing loss
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Deaths from heart failure or asphyxiation (loss of oxygen)

Inhalants can be physically and psychologically addictive. Habitual users coming off inhalants suffer withdrawal symptoms which can include nausea, excessive sweating, muscle cramps, headaches, chills, agitation, with shaking and hallucinations. In severe cases, withdrawal can cause convulsions.

Inhalants and cigarettes will both cause significant damage to your health, including death. However, the inhalant user risks Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome based on the fact death can occur the first time or the hundredth time an inhalant is used. To learn more check out the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition.








Signed: TeenHealthFX