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Cleaning Fluid Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

February 15, 2019

The most commonly abused cleaning agents include dry cleaning fluid, spot removers, and degreasers. These fluids typically vaporize at room temperature and are easy to ingest via mouth or nasal pathways. They are also an affordable, readily available, and legal, albeit dangerous, way to get high.

Cleaning fluids fall under a group of commonly abused substances known as inhalants. Typically inhalant drugs are found in products purchased for non-medical home use or industrial applications. These might include paint thinners, aerosol sprays, and cleaning agents.

Who Abuses Cleaning Fluids?

Due to the affordability and accessibility of cleaning fluids and solvents, they make up some of the most widely-abused substances among people under 18 years old. They tend to participate in inhalant use with their peer groups and become isolated from non-users. Due to the complexities of the social dynamic between the user and his or her family and friends, solvent abuse often acts as a “gateway drug” to other addictive substances.

Substances like cleaning fluids are legal for anyone to purchase, often leading youth to assume falsely that these products are safe, even when abused. And studies indicate that even when parents speak to their kids about drug abuse, they talk about commonly abused like alcohol and other illegal drugs including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, missing one of the most widely abused substances among school-aged individuals.

Youth who abuse cleaning fluids are often isolated from their overall peer group, withdrawn, and more likely to be involved in fights or crime as some side effects from the solvents promote aggression.

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How Are Cleaning Fluids Abused?

Inhalant abuse, also known as huffing, involves the inhalation of vapors from cleaning fluids. Common cleaning fluids often contain specific volatile organic compounds known as chlorinated hydrocarbons. These include monochloroethane, trichloroethane, trichloroethene, tetrachloroethylene, and dichloromethane. When these products are introduced to air at room temperature, they create vapors that can be inhaled to achieve an associated high. Unfortunately, the high is only temporary, leading to frequent abuse of the solvents, and a significant increase in toxicity over time.

How Do Cleaning Fluids Effect The Body?

Solvents found in most cleaning fluids are absorbed into the fatty tissue of the body, where they quickly enter the brain and where neurotoxicity can develop with continued use. Inhalation of many of these compounds share similar results with alcohol use in their depression of the central nervous system. When a person inhales or “huffs,” they are, for a moment, depriving their bodies of life-sustaining oxygen. At the same time, they’re flooding their system with dopamine, part of the reward circuit in the human brain.

Are Cleaning Fluids Addictive?

Apart from the social component common to use of cleaning fluid abuse (users often gather in small groups), there are psychological effects that can lead to continued use. The effect garnered by central nervous system depression is highly sought after by most people who abuse drugs like alcohol. Similarly, these drugs impact the same reasoning and decision-making parts of the brain, while also exciting the dopamine centers of the brain. This can lead to psychological dependence on the drug to feel high or to feel normal.

Risk factors include the history of physical or sexual abuse in the home, a history of alcohol or other drug dependencies within the immediate family, and genetic predisposition to addiction. Compulsive or chronic use of cleaning fluids to achieve a high can lead to mild withdrawal symptoms and is linked to long-term drug abuse later in life.

Signs Of Cleaning Fluid Abuse

It is critical parents and educators know the tell-tale signs of inhalant abuse. Someone abusing cleaning fluids is likely to exhibit the following symptoms:

  • antisocial behaviors
  • fatigue
  • falling asleep in class
  • aggressive behaviors
  • fighting
  • apathy
  • demonstrate poor reasoning or cognitive skills
  • slurred speech
  • stumbling
  • headaches
  • nausea

A person abusing cleaning supplies may also smell of cleaning solutions or have burns or reddening around their mouth or nose.

Dangers Of Cleaning Fluid Abuse

There are many adverse health effects that accompany use of inhalants including cleaning fluid vapors. Most susceptible to abuse of these products is the brain. Parts of the brain associated with personality, memory, and cognitive functioning are all impaired from abusing cleaning products. Brain cells, when deprived of oxygen, die rapidly.

Side effects from cleaning fluid abuse include:

  • slurred speech
  • muscle tremors
  • hearing loss
  • depression
  • unsteady gait
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • rapid heart rate
  • irregular heart rhythm
  • asphyxiation
  • heart failure
  • permanent nervous system damage
  • brain damage
  • liver and kidney damage
  • lung damage

During the process of huffing cleaning solution vapors, oxygen is deprived from the lungs, which leaves potential for permanent brain damage, memory loss, and even death.

Deaths from cleaning fluid abuse may be related to higher incidence of cancer, and damage to the liver and kidneys. Death may occur from heart failure or asphyxiation.

Find Help For Cleaning Fluid Addiction

Get clean from addiction starting now. If you or someone you care about is abusing cleaning fluids, can connect you with compassionate professionals and treatment options in your area.

Those who abuse cleaning fluids and other inhalants are more likely to develop addictions to more serious drugs in the future, so addressing the addiction today, is one way to gain control of the rest of your life.

Contact us today and speak with someone in confidence to discover what options might work best for your individual needs.

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