Drugs A to Z

Inhalants: Factsheet

inhalant warning image
Targeted Drugs:

This resource has undergone expert review.

Year 9–10, Year 11–12
Time Allocated

Partial lesson (under 45mins)





What are Inhalants?

Inhalants, also known as volatile substances or solvents, are substances that are sniffed or breathed in through the nose and/or mouth to give the person using the drug an immediate high.

There are four main types of inhalants:

  • Volatile solvents
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Gases
  • Nitrites

Personal stories

How many young people have used Inhalants?

According to the 2022-2023 Australian secondary schools' survey, approximately 1 in 14 (7%) Australian students (aged 12–17 years old) reported having used inhalants in the past month. 1 in 5 students (20%) reported having ever used inhalants.

What are the effects of Inhalants?

Most inhalants have an immediate effect. The high usually only lasts for a few minutes. Users sometimes keep on sniffing to prolong the high, in some cases this can lead to loss of consciousness, brain damage, and even death.

The effects of inhalants can be immediate or long-term, as listed in the table below.

Immediate Long-term
Increased heart rate Dependence (see glossary)
Feeling light headed and dizzy Brain damage
Loss of inhibitions Tremors
Agitation Problems breathing
Loss of coordination and balance Loss of hearing and vision
Irritation to the eyes, nose and throat Increased risk of leukaemia from petrol sniffing
Aggressive behaviour Damage to the immune system, bones, nerves, kidney, liver, heart, and lungs
Slurred speech  
Confusion and drowsiness  
Nausea and vomiting  
Hallucinations (e.g. seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there)  
‘Sudden sniffing death’ syndrome (caused by heart failure that can occur within a few minutes)  

Evidence Base

This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney, the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.

Download attachment for more information on Inhalants and a list of sources.
Download 'Inhalants: What you need to know'


  • Credit to the Home Office for quotes adapted from Talk to Frank.

Something missing?

Looking for information that isn’t provided here?

Make a suggestion for this website

Need immediate support for
you or someone you know?

Get help and support now