Inhalants are common household and workplace substances that are sniffed or huffed to give the user an immediate head rush or high. The "high" lasts only a few minutes and is immediately followed by a headache, leading to huffing repeatedly over several hours. By 8th grade 20% of kids have tried them and they are more common among younger children (6% of 4th graders have already tried them). They can cause "sudden sniffing death" where a single prolonged session leads to rapid, irregular heartbeat, heart failure and death. Chronic exposure to inhalants causes widespread and long-lasting damage to the nervous system and other vital organs. The toxic chemicals damage parts of the brain that control learning, movement, vision, and hearing. Damage to the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys may be permanent.
I first heard the term "inhalant" in D.A.R.E. when the police officer explained the dangers of inhalants; I learned how kids suddenly die from them for no reason and how they can cause irreversible brain damage. I didn't know at the time, but inhalants are one of the substances that are actually as bad as D.A.R.E. said they were.
Of course inhalants are the kind of thing that absolutely everyone has laying around the house, be it white-out, spray paint, glue, paint thinner etc. etc. D.A.R.E. obviously didn't want to be telling kids that they could get high off these things if they didn't already know; They made a point of not really explaining precisely what an inhalant consisted of. Despite D.A.R.E.'s best efforts I think the lesson was completely lost because of that little technicality and what students took home looked something like this:
Ok, so that drug I've never heard of, "inhalant" is it, well if I ever do come across it I'll most certainly stay away from it because it is so dangerous. I won't even give in to this "peer pressure" they speak of. I'm still not quite sure what it is or what it looks like, but when I find out I'll know ahead of time to stay away from it.
"Hey Tommy, my big brother said if you sniff white-out you'll feel really good! He said you'll feel 'high'."
"I wanna try it! You got any white-out?"
This is honestly the exact thing that happened, I heard many stories about sniffing sharpies and other toxic fumes and no one ever made the connection that they were actually the drugs we were warned about, let alone they were considered drugs at all (including me). It was really just chance that I'm one of the 80% of kids that never did such a thing, because I certainly didn't know it was bad.