What Do Inhalants Look Like?

Inhalants are substances that produce vapors changing the brain chemistry. Often, such drugs are not prescribed medications and are found as industrial chemicals or household products. Below, you can find information on how to identify inhalants, signs of addiction, and steps on getting help for substance use disorder.

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Inhalants are classified as a broad range of chemicals that have mind-altering effects when inhaled, hence their name. Some inhalants are medications such as those used to address asthma or other respiratory conditions such as vaporized antihistamines. Other medical uses of inhalants include anesthesia gases, where patients are given a nebulizer to inhale and experience the effects. Medical-grade inhalants are used with healthcare professional supervision and some are given through complex equipment.

However, a large majority of inhalants are not prescribed but are intended for other purposes, such as industrial or home chemicals. Some varieties of these substances have addictive properties, and for such reason, you would want to know what do inhalants look like.

Are you suspecting inhalant abuse in yourself or a loved one? You can find a comprehensive post below about the most commonly abused inhalants, what they typically look like, plus steps on getting help for inhalant addiction.

Inhalants Physical Appearance

Since inhalants are a wide variety of substances, it is important to be familiar with the four main subcategories of these products. These include volatile solvents, gases, nitrites, and aerosols.

Gas-producing solvents (volatile)

Generally, these are products that easily produce gas at room temperature. They are often in thin liquid forms and have a strong scent due to the vapors easily escaping from the containers. Typically, you would find them in their usual containers as paint thinners, nail polish removers, felt tip pens, gasoline, white erase liquids, and degreasers.

Inhalant colors in this subcategory are usually clear or translucent but have strong smells. There will be labels to help you identify, but be also aware of suspicious-looking bottles or containers of liquids around your home that have permeating odors.


Medication gases are not typically accessed but they come in the form of chloroform, ether, nitrous oxide, or halothane. Some household and commercial products can have gases as well, such as whipped cream cans or octane boosters for cars.

Containers of such inhalants often come in cans, tanks, and other types or other pressurized sources. You can find terms in labels such as refrigerants, tanks, and lighters. If you are wondering what color are inhalants in this category, most of them are clear and will often not be visible when exposed at room temperature.


Nitrites in the medical space are substances named isobutyl nitrite, isoamyl nitrite, and cyclohexyl nitrite. They are given as medications to relax the muscles and to lower blood pressure. Some inhalants illicitly obtained can come in small bottles with labels such as room odorizer, leather cleaner, video head cleaner, or liquid aroma.

To know what mg are inhalants in this subcategory, these nitrites have opaque bottle containers that are around 10-100 mL. The nitrite solutions can also have quirky titles and colorful labels especially if it is sold for recreational purposes.


Aerosols often come in spray containers and pressurized metal cans. Some familiar household products include hair sprays, oil sprays, room deodorizers, and fabric protectors.

When identifying what color are inhalants within this variety, you would easily find out that they are usually colorless and invisible at room temperature. Like gases and gas-producing solvents, they would have a strong, distinct odor. You can watch out for suspicious cans, metal containers, and spray containers that have no labels within your home to know if someone is misusing aerosols.

Since inhalant substances are associated with household products, they can be easy to access especially if you have a minor at home. Some paraphernalia can include deflated balloons, plastics with leftover liquids, and small spray containers that can easily be placed in the nostrils.

Signs of Inhalant Abuse

Aside from being able to identify inhalants and related paraphernalia, it can also help to know the signs of inhalant abuse in yourself or a loved one. There are notable symptoms that someone is dependent on inhalants:

  • Breath or body odor smelling of inhalants
  • Paint stains or skin discoloration
  • Possessing deflated balloons, plastics, and other suspicious opaque containers in unusual quantities
  • Difficulties in communication such as slurred speech, slow speech, or use of incomprehensible statements
  • Weight changes
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Physical appearance changes such as pale skin, bluish, brittle nails, dry hair, deep-set eyes
  • Respiratory issues such as frequent coughing and breathing problems
  • Changes in behavior and mental state

The effects of inhalants that trigger abuse are usually short-term, and for that many individuals often increase their doses to dangerous amounts. It is crucial to watch out for the signs of inhalant addiction as an overdose or life-threatening health effects can come unexpectedly.

If you notice any or all of these signs, these could be indicative of possible inhalant addiction. It is best to seek professional help as soon as possible to prevent the risk of health complications and inhalant overdose.

How to Get Help for Inhalant Abuse

Since inhalant addiction is not as common as other types of narcotic abuse, it can often bring individuals doubts about getting help. However, it is important to know that there is specific help available for inhalant addiction. Here are some concrete steps you can take:

Contact a trusted inhalant abuse center

Addiction centers specializing in inhalant abuse understand the kinds of medical detox, treatments, and aftercare programs needed to address the condition. You may contact an inhalant abuse center to know about you or your loved one’s case. They can answer questions about going into rehab, or how to stage an intervention if a loved one may not be that open yet about addiction treatment.

Find support from trusted loved ones and professionals

You can also receive support from trusted loved ones and professionals who are willing to help in inhalant addiction. Opening up can seem difficult at first but opens up a channel of resources you may need on the road to addiction recovery.

Equip yourself with information and resources

There are informational blog posts that can help you keep track of overdose signs, health complications to watch out for, and discussions boards where you can get support for inhalant addiction. Some local resources also have online or in-person programs that can help you receive information to be successful in your addiction recovery journey.

Inhalant Addiction: Identifying Substances, Signs of Abuse, and Getting Help

Often the journey to recovery is full of steps like informing yourself of the simplest things such as knowing what do inhalants look like. From there, you can equip yourself and others about the signs as well as effects of abuse, while getting the addiction help as needed. It is never late to seek addiction treatment–you can always start anytime by making a committed decision.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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