Inhalants include hair spray, gasoline, spray paint they
are all inhalants, and so are lots of other everyday products. Many
inhalants have a strong smell. That's why they're called inhalants:
Some people inhale the vapors on purpose. The chemicals in these
vapors can change the way the brain works, and those changes can
make people feel very happy for a short time. But inhalants can
also do harm.
Inhalant vapors often contain more than one chemical. Some leave
the body quickly, but others are absorbed by fatty tissues in the
brain and nervous system. They can stay there for a long time. One
of these fatty tissues is myelin a protective cover that
surrounds many of the body's nerve cells (neurons).
Nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord are sort of like "Command
Central" for your body. They send and receive messages that
control just about everything you think and do. If you picture nerve
cells as your body's electrical wiring, then think of myelin as
the rubber insulation that protects an electrical cord.
One problem with inhalant use over the long term is that the chemicals
can break down myelin. And if myelin breaks down, nerve cells may
not be able to transmit messages.
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
NIH Publication No. 97-4038