Different types of drugs are grouped together based on factors such as what they do. A term like “inhalants” can be confusing because there are many different drugs that can be inhaled. Inhalants are specifically intoxicating or mind-altering agents that are abused primarily through inhalation.

Some illicit inhalants are specifically manufactured and produced for the purpose of getting high off the vapors. However, others are found in products with legitimate uses that are common in many households.

Inhalants are abused by “huffing,” which involves soaking rags in the substances and then inhaling the fumes it gives off, or “sniffing,” which involves inhaling fumes directly from open containers. The different types of inhalants are as follows.


Aerosols are products that come in spray cans. They contain solvents that vaporize at room temperature and propellants that help the materials travel out of the can in a forceful manner. The combination of the two chemicals, found in ordinary household products such as cooking grease, hair spray, deodorant, and spray paint, can be intoxicating if intentionally inhaled.


Many common products, both for household and commercial use, contain gases such as nitrous oxide. Examples include propane tanks, butane lighters, and whipped cream dispensers, all of which people have been known to huff or sniff to get high. There are also medical anesthetics administered in gas form. Nitrous oxide is also one of these, along with chloroform, halothane, and ether.


Nitrites are gases such as isoamyl nitrite or cyclohexyl nitrite. They relax the muscles by dilating the blood vessels and are abused for their mood altering effects and purported enhancement of sexual enjoyment. Nitrites also offer some medical benefits but, recognizing the danger that they pose, the Consumer Products Safety Commission now prohibits the use of nitrites. This, unfortunately, has not stopped the abuse of nitrites. Instead, they are packaged in small bottles called “poppers” bearing innocuous-sounding labels, such as “liquid aroma” and “leather cleaner.”

Volatile Solvents

Aerosols contain volatile solvents, but they are also found in common products that are not aerosols, such as felt-tip markers, glues, paint thinners, and gasoline. These liquids evaporate at room temperature and work on the central nervous system to produce the feeling of a high.

Charges of driving while intoxicated are not confined to alcohol or illegal drugs. If you are accused of abusing inhalants and then getting behind the wheel, you could face prosecution for DWI. Contact a lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer from May Law, LLP, for a consultation.