Purpose of review
Until recently, inhalant abuse and dependence have been overlooked as serious problems, perhaps because of their relatively low prevalence. The purpose of this review is to summarize recent advances in our understanding of the consequences, pharmacology, and etiology of inhalant use, and how we might develop preventive and management strategies to combat abuse and dependence on these drugs.
Animal models have cast light on how reinforcement of inhalant use occurs, and on mechanisms of development of tolerance and dependence. The reinforcing effects occur principally through GABA and dopamine-mediated mechanisms (rather than NMDA-mediated mechanisms). Assays for inhalants provide greater opportunities for accurate diagnosis. In addition to known medical consequences of inhalant use (including death), other risks associated with inhalant use and addiction include addiction to other substances, major depression, suicide, and impaired learning and memory.
The extensive medical, psychiatric, and psychological damage that can be caused by inhalant use argues for much greater attention to be paid to developing prevention and treatment programmes for inhalant abuse and dependence. These are currently nonexistent, but are badly needed.