Inhalants

The intoxicating and euphorigenic properties of nitrous oxide and ethyl ether were well known even before their potential as anesthetics was recognized. Physicians, nurses and other health-care professionals have been known to inhale anesthetic gases even though they have access to a wide variety of other drugs. Adolescents with restricted access to alcohol often resort to ''glue sniffing'' or the inhalation of vapors from substances with marked toxicity, such as gasoline, paint thinners, or other industrial solvents. The alkyl nitrites (butyl, isobu-tyl, and amyl) have been used as aphrodisiacs, since the inhalation of these agents is suggested to intensify and prolong orgasm. At least 12 percent of young adults have reported some experience with inhalants—however, fatal toxic reactions (usually due to cardiac arrhythmias) are often associated with the inhalation of many of these drugs. Inhalation from a plastic bag can result in hypoxia (too little oxygen) as well as an extremely high concentration of vapor. Fluorinated hydrocarbons can produce cardiac arrhythmias and ischemia (localized anemia). Chlorinated solvents depress heart muscle (myocardial) contractility. Ketones can produce pulmonary (lung) hypertension. Neurological impairment can also occur with a variety of solvents.

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