Mind Matters: The Body's Response to Inhalants

A visually appealing booklet for students that explains how inhalants changes the way the communication centers in the brain work and ultimately cause their effects. This booklet is part of the Mind Matters series focused on easy-to-understand scientific facts.

Lesson Plan Highlights:

This lesson includes:

  • Student activity sheets
  • Teacher's guide

Grade Level(s):

5,  6,  7,  8, 

Student Skills:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Understanding health effects and risks

Time / Duration:

  • 1-2 class periods


  • Computer with Internet access per 1-2 students OR
  • Order free copies of the booklets for students


  • English
  • Spanish
Mind Matters: The Body's Response to Inhalants cover
Download PDF

Hi there! Mind Matters  (formerly referred to as Mind Over Matter) is a series that explores the ways that different drugs affect your brain, body, and life. In this issue, we are going to talk about inhalants.

View the Mind Matters Teacher's Guide.

What are inhalants?

Inhalants are chemicals that are found in everyday household products that some people use to get high. Because these items are found around the house, some people don’t think that they can be dangerous. But these chemicals can be very harmful to the brain. 

How do people use inhalants?

People who use inhalants breathe in the fumes through their nose or mouth. This is called “sniffing,” “snorting,” or “huffing.”  Because the high only lasts a few seconds or minutes, some people who use inhalants use them repeatedly to feel a longer high.

Some Products That People Inhale:

  • Lighters
  • Nail polish remover
  • Felt-tip markers
  • Room fragrances 
  • Spray paint
  • Paint thinner 
  • Hair spray 
  • Whipped cream cans
  • Cleaning products
  • Keyboard cleaner
Graphic diagram showing how the chemicals in inhalants are taken in through the lungs, and within seconds travel to and reach the brain

How do inhalants work?

Inhalants can change the way your brain talks to other parts of the body, and may cause you to feel drunk or high. Many inhalants affect the brain in ways similar to depressants like tranquilizers, sedatives, or alcohol, although the effects are usually shorter-lasting. Other inhalants like nitrites can make your blood vessels larger and your heart beat faster. Nitrites are found in some room fragrances and medicines. This can cause you to feel very warm and jumpy.

Can you become addicted to inhalants?

It is not very common, but yes, you can become addicted to inhalants. Over time, inhalants can change the way your brain works, and you can feel really sick when you are not using them. This can make it hard to stop using inhalants. This is called an addiction. 

Don’t forget that anyone can become addicted to inhalants. It doesn’t matter where you live or how smart you are. There is no way to predict who will become addicted.

How do inhalants affect your brain and body?

Illustration of a girl holding her stomach and head as if they were aching

Short-Term Effects

  • Dizziness
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren't real
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of body control

Long-Term Effects

  • Brain damage
  • Hearing problems
  • Liver and kidney damage

Learn more about inhalants.

What if someone I know needs help?

If you think a friend or family member has a problem with drugs, talk to an adult you trust—like a parent, coach, or teacher—right away. Remember, treatment is available and people can get better.

Student Booklet