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Inhalants

  • By: Lawrence P. Carter
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

Inhalants are compounds that are self-administered as gases or vapors to induce a desired pharmacological effect. Although drugs from many different classes may be self-administered via the lungs by smoking or vaporization, inhalants are unique in that smoking is not required for their inhalation and inhalation is typically the only route of administration by which they are used.

The inhalant class of drugs is composed of a wide variety of compounds, which are commonly divided into three categories: alkyl nitrates (amyl nitrite or poppers); nitrous oxide (laughing gas); and volatile solvents, fuels, or anesthetics (ether, gasoline). Inhalants are typically purchased legally, relatively inexpensive, and found in many common household products. As a result of widespread availability in products such as cleaning fluids, glues, aerosols, and fuels, ...

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