Inhalants Teens Might Use

Find out What Your Teen Might Be Using to Get High

There are over 1000 substances that are thought to be used to get high by huffing, but these pictures of inhalants can give you an idea of what to look for. Inhaling or huffing various substances is a common and easy way for teens to get high. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2018 said that 8.5% of students between the ages of 12-17 have used inhalants at least once in their lifetime.

Huffing or inhaling certain substances can cause a quick high by working on the ​central nervous system—the brain and spinal cord.

How Huffing Is Done

Huffing a substance or inhalant can be done in a variety of different ways, depending on the inhalant, container it comes in, and even just personal preference.

Amyl nitrate (poppers) can be inhaled directly from the small container that it often comes in. Some substances can be soaked in rags or gloves or even hair accessories and then those items are sniffed or huffed to get the effect of the inhalant. Other times, inhalants are put into a paper or plastic bag or balloon and are breathed in that way. Some inhalant fumes are huffed directly from their containers. Other times, the inhalant is sprayed directly into the mouth.

The dangers of huffing are many, including kidney problems, memory loss, liver damage, lung damage, problems with attention, weight loss, muscle weakness, lack of coordination, irritability, depression, and even sudden death from heart failure or asphyxiation.


Colored Sharpies

RSMcLeod / Getty Images

Think those permanent markers are harmless? They can be used in a dangerous way.

Items like markers, correction fluid, and glue are commonly found in many homes. These all contain volatile solvents—substances that vaporize in the air. Because of this property, they are common substances that are inhaled or huffed.


Close-Up Of Colorful Cigarette Lighters On Table

Chanayut Sansri / EyeEm / Getty Images

Your teen may have a lighter for lighting candles or starting a campfire, but they can also be used for huffing.

Lighter fluid is also a volatile solvent. Lighter fluid can be inhaled or huffed for a quick high.

Nitrous Oxide

Cream chargers in a box.

annick vanderschelden photography / Getty Images

Nitrous oxide is found in whipped cream containers, small metal canisters used in refillable whipped cream canisters, and has been used as a mild medical anesthetic ("laughing gas"). Nitrous oxide use is common among teens who use inhalants.

Sometimes whipped cream containers are discharged upright, allowing the gas to escape and be inhaled. The small containers in the picture gallery are referred to as "whippets" and the gas is inhaled using a balloon or directly from the whippet.

Spray Cans

Different inhalants, same can Spray Cans

Wikimedia / Levi Siuzdak

Spray paint, hair spray, vegetable oil sprays, and other spray cans can be used to huff. The propellant is what pushes the product out of the can. It is that propellant that can cause a high when inhaled.


Easily available, cheap high Gas Container

BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

You can get gasoline nearly anywhere you go. It can also be a dangerous high. Gasoline is another volatile solvent that becomes a gas when air hits it. The fumes from the gas, when inhaled deeply over a short period of time, can cause a high.

Amyl Nitrate

A sexual "enhancer" Amyl Nitrate Poppers

Ever heard of poppers? Amyl nitrate is commonly found in small containers with the words "room odorizer," "video head cleaner" or "liquid aroma." Amyl nitrate is packaged and commonly called poppers.

Amyl nitrate is inhaled, and is sometimes used as a sexual "enhancer."

Computer Duster

More dangers found at home Computer Duster

Computer dusters are easily found at any office supply store. They are also used for huffing. If you think that your teen is going through multiple cans of computer duster, it might not be because your teen is concerned about keeping the computer clean. The duster is often inhaled directly from the can to cause a high.

Was this page helpful?
7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Updated 2020.

  2. Howard MO, Bowen SE, Garland EL, Perron BE, Vaughn MG. Inhalant use and inhalant use disorders in the United StatesAddict Sci Clin Pract. 2011;6(1):18‐31.

  3. Jain R, Verma A. Laboratory approach for diagnosis of toluene-based inhalant abuse in a clinical setting. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2016;8(1):18-22. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.164293

  4. Sen A, Erdivanli B. Cardiac arrest following butane inhalation. Anesth Essays Res. 2015;9(2):273-5. doi:10.4103/0259-1162.156366

  5. Garland EL, Howard MO, Perron BE. Nitrous oxide inhalation among adolescents: prevalence, correlates, and co-occurrence with volatile solvent inhalationJ Psychoactive Drugs. 2009;41(4):337‐347. doi:10.1080/02791072.2009.10399771

  6. Rewbury R, Hughes E, Purbrick R, Prior S, Baron M. Poppers: legal highs with questionable contents? A case series of poppers maculopathy. Br J Ophthalmol. 2017;101(11):1530-1534. doi:10.1136/bjophthalmol-2016-310023

  7. Forrester MB. Computer and electronic duster spray inhalation (huffing) injuries managed at emergency departments. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2020;46(2):180-183. doi:10.1080/00952990.2019.1657880