Presently, there are no treatment medications for inhalant addiction that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are medications, however, available for treating the adverse health effects of inhalants. Hopefully, research will prove to be fruitful in better understanding the mechanism of inhalant addiction and in devising a treatment medication.
The major form of inhalant abuse treatment is detoxification and therapy in treatment programs. Detoxifying users who huff or sniff inhalants can take months and also requires extensive counseling. Inhalants can stay in the body for weeks, necessitating an extended detoxification period, and abusers are often unable to begin therapy until detoxification is complete. Therapy for an inhalant abuser, as with other drug addicts, is required for as long as a two-year period. Because counselors have noted that inhalant abusers often have short attention spans, it is advisable that therapy begins with short sessions of 15–20 minutes, gradually progressing to longer sessions. Simple procedures and repetition may be required to ensure the client understands the discussion. Treatment clinics are also advised to make sure that there are no inhalable products on the premises and to closely monitor any necessary solvents that a patient could find and abuse during detoxification and treatment. Since inhalant abusers typically abuse a number of types of inhalants, a thorough physical examination and detailed history of the compounds they have abused is critical. This is followed by treatments for the medical conditions that have been caused by the inhalant(s) abused. Treatment for inhalant abusers is often complicated by the fact that inhalant abusers use multiple drugs.
The treatment of inhalant abuse faces some serious problems. Some substance abuse clinics often do not even know how to treat inhalant abusers. It is shocking that despite the fact that inhalant abuse is a widespread problem, inhalant abusers are often faced with having nowhere to turn to for help. Since inhalant abuse often arises in episodic events in communities, towns that are facing major problems with youth abuse often find that there is nowhere to accommodate the abusers for treatment and no nearby treatment facilities that can handle detoxification specific to inhalant abuse. Some communities have faced these problems by setting up their own treatment facilities, but this takes time and money. Indeed, with time being critical for treatment of abusers who need it, the lack of adequate treatment facilities has led to emergencies, with local areas begging for outside help. Instead, most programs are better funded and equipped for other drugs of abuse, adult patients, and patients who enter treatment programs of their own will. Often, treatment program workers have not been trained to work with inhalant users in the community and outside of health centers, where treatment is thought to be more effective.
Inhalant abusers often have problems in addition to the abuse of multiple drugs. Inhalant abusers often have family problems, poor self-esteem, personality disorders, cognitive impairment, and mental illness. Staff members of treatment programs have repeatedly characterized inhalant users with words such as “psychologically maladjusted, ego weakness, personality disorganization, poor impulse control, low frustration tolerance, withdrawn, uninterested, destructive, overactive, restless, disruptive and lacking discipline.”
Many inhalant abusers have poor academic records and exceptionally high expulsion rates from school and are more likely than the average student to drop out of school. Some of these problems may have contributed to the use of inhalants as an escape, and some may be the consequence of inhalant abuse causing detrimental changes in a young person’s life.
This combination of multiple neurological, psychological, and social problems makes chronic inhalant abusers a very unique and challenging treatment group. Each individual patient has a unique set of behavioral challenges and combinations of inhalants and/or other drugs abused. Treatment for inhalant abuse must resolve some of these problems or help the patient cope with problems without turning to drugs.
The majority of the clients in treatment are not always in treatment by choice. In many cases, inhalant users are referred to programs by criminal justice agencies under emergency circumstances, such as a bad episode with inhalants. Often, inhalant users are admitted to treatment after an arrest, or treatment is a condition of their parole. Since they did not seek treatment on their own, they are often unmotivated and uninterested in the treatment program. More often than any other treatment group, inhalant users drop out or are expelled from treatment programs for noncompliance with the program rules.