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What are the Dangers of Huffing Paint?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Intentionally concentrating and inhaling paint products is a risky activity. Individuals who huff paint usually do so to achieve an immediate high, a short-lived feeling of euphoria and lightheadedness. Many people erroneously assume that huffing paint is safer than using illegal drugs. In fact, it is an extremely dangerous practice that can result in numerous short-term and long-term health problems. Inhaling paint impairs the central nervous system and can very well lead to sudden death.

When a person huffs paint, he or she immediately experiences a euphoric feeling. The user becomes lightheaded and confused as chemicals from the paint penetrate the brain. It is common for a people to lose their balance and their ability to focus for up to five minutes after huffing paint. Like other inhalants, concentrated paint chemicals can cause a loss of inhibitions and make the user feel as if he or she is intoxicated from alcohol. As the euphoric effects fade, the individual tends to become very drowsy.

The short-term effects of huffing paint include headaches, dizziness, irritability, and nausea. Huffing causes blood pressure and heart rate to skyrocket, and many people sweat and shake. Withdrawal symptoms are usually severe, and an individual can suffer from insomnia, tremors, or even seizures as the immediate effects of the paint wear off.

With long-term abuse, a person can permanently damage his or her kidneys, lungs, heart, and brain. Chronic hypertension and other severe heart conditions are common in people who become addicted to paint. Long-term use can disrupt normal brain functioning, leading to memory problems and difficulty concentrating. An individual might also lose the ability to speak, hear, and smell correctly.

In some cases, paint abusers experience noticeable changes in personality, usually causing them to become depressed or apathetic. Many people suffer from long-term impotence and chronic insomnia. The dangers of huffing paint continue to afflict a person after he or she stops abusing the substance. Even if a person seeks professional help for his or her addiction and abstains from huffing for many years, urges to use and withdrawal symptoms can arise at any time.

Huffing paint can be immediately fatal, even in small doses. The United States Department of Justice and drug enforcement agencies in many other countries officially recognize a condition called sudden sniffing death (SSD). Cases of SSD are caused by the combined effects of the dangers listed above, ultimately resulting in heart failure or asphyxiation as blood vessels and airways are constricted. SSD strikes instantly and can affect anyone, be it a first-time user or a person who has been huffing paint for years.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon326708 — On Mar 23, 2013

@anon258451 post#3: Please, please seek help. The police are very limited as to what they can do to help your husband.

I know, I have someone very close to me that is addicted to drugs and it is very heartbreaking. I too, have been scared in my own home, for fear of what this person would do next.

Please take amypollick's advice and seek help at the NDAT hotline. It is the best place to start to receive help. Also, contact Hope Coalition online in case your husband gets violent again, (and he probably will). They may be able to help you find another place to live for you and your children, to keep yourselves safe. They have information for low-income housing if you need that type of assistance.

Otherwise, I strongly recommend that you find another place to live ASAP. Do not allow yourself and your children to be in danger. Your lives are worth more to God and others than that.

By amypollick — On Apr 02, 2012

@anon258451, post. no. 3: I am so sorry for what you are going through. Addiction is addiction, whether it's alcohol, drugs or inhalants. Contact the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline, toll-free, at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They can help you. Please call them.

I will certainly be praying for you and your family.

By anon258451 — On Apr 02, 2012

I just caught my husband huffing paint in the garage I'm so sad. We have two children and I can't see how he could risk his life like this. I don't know what to do or who to go to for help. He was very mad when I caught him and hit me and tore all my things up and started hitting himself and biting himself, going crazy and screaming.

I've smelled this on his breath for quite some time but, wasn't aware of what it was and never would have thought it was this. I have researched it on the web now and I'm so afraid of what will happen. He's completely changed, but he doesn't see it. This has been only two hours ago and now he's asleep as if nothing happened.

I prayed to God to protect my children and me and the whole time he nonstop destroyed all we own, even the grill outside. I'm at a loss and my love for him has me trying to avoid calling the police, but I really don't know how else to help him. I'm so afraid of what he might do next.

Please keep us in your prayers and thank you for reading this. I don't know why, but typing this out has helped me. Just the thought of me being heard by someone makes me feel a little calmer.

By seekinfo2 — On May 01, 2011

@pinkandred- Another thing kids are doing is huffing paint thinner. After I found out about this, all the paint thinner cans I had around my garage got put up. Every parent should hide and lock up these types of products. It is unfortunate that we have to do such a thing, but it is for their own good.

By pinkandred — On Apr 30, 2011

I have a friend who found out her 13 year old son was sniffing glue--the kind you use to glue model airplanes with. She was devastated and they got into a rehab right away.

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