What are solvents and inhalers?

Aerosols, glue, cans or gas, paint thinner, nail polish remover, lighter fuel, Tip-Ex thinner

Written by spunout


Remember: All drugs, including the misuse of prescribed medication, can pose serious health risks, up to and including possible death.

Solvent misuse is the deliberate inhalation of gases, chemical fumes or vapours in order to get a “high” or “buzz” similar to the feeling produced by alcohol. The fluid can be inhaled from a soaked cloth or directly from the can.  Many common household and industrial products, which are safe when used correctly, can be abused.

The four main categories of solvents and inhalers 

  • Adhesives and thinners (glues, paint thinners, nail polish remover)
  • Dry cleaning products (dry-cleaning fluids, paint stripper, typewriter correcting fluid and thinners, printing industry solvents, shoe dyes and conditioners)
  • Aerosols (hairspray, room and body deodorant sprays, paints, painkilling and insect sprays)
  • Fuels (petrol, lighter fuel, domestic and camping gas cylinders)

What happens when you take solvents?

  • The experience is like being intensely drunk for a short period
  • Breathing and heart rate slow down
  • Users often feel dizzy, giggly and dreamy and can become aggressive
  • Some users can feel nervous, may vomit, hallucinate, experience blackouts, tiredness and lack of concentration
  • The effects are short lived. Like alcohol you get a hangover afterwards

Other dangers:

  • Abusing gases, aerosols or glue can cause sudden death, even on the first go. This is because breathing and heart rate are reduced and compromised
  • Substances sprayed into the mouth may cause fluid to flood the lungs, and may stimulate the nerve at the back of the throat to cause the heart to slow to a fatally low level
  • When sniffing there is a risk of suffocation
  • Users (when high) are more prone to accidents because their senses are affected. People can become unconscious and choke if they inhale vomit, suffocation is also a risk if a plastic bag is used to inhale 
  • A form of brain inflammation (encephalopathy) may arise from the lead compounds in leaded petrol. Many of these compounds are flammable. There have been severe burns caused by explosions and fires resulting from the misuse of butane. Repeated use of leaded petrol can cause lead poisoning.


It is an offence for any person to sell, or offer any substance to someone who is under 18, which they believe is likely to be abused as a drug.

Support services 

  • Drugs.ie: Online information and support for drug and alcohol use. Includes a national directory of drug and alcohol services
  • HSE Drugs, Alcohol, HIV and Sexual Health Helpline: Freephone 1800 459 459.
  • The Club Drug Clinic offers advice, support and detoxification for GHB (Liquid Ecstasy, G) and other chemsex and club drugs is an integrated person centred specialist addiction service: Tel 016488600
  • Rialto Community Drug Team

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