The Effects of Breathing Aerosol Spray

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Use aerosol spray in a well-ventilated area.
Use aerosol spray in a well-ventilated area. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Aerosol sprays can be very useful in every day life, but there are some significant hazards if they are inhaled regularly or in large amounts. They cause psychoactive effects, and for that reason some people use sprays to get high. There are long-term and short-term dangers to this practice. Even if you use the sprays as intended, it's best to take some precautions when using them.

Aerosol Sprays

Aerosol sprays include spray paint, hair and deodorant spray, fabric protector, insect repellent, computer cleaning products, vegetable oil spray, or any spray that includes propellants and solvents. They are packed in cans under pressure and ejected from the can when the nozzle is pressed. Aerosol sprays contain chemical compounds that are not naturally present in the air.

Psychoactive Effects

When aerosol spray is inhaled it displaces air in the lungs, which makes it difficult to disperse oxygen throughout the body, particularly to the brain. This creates a sense of euphoria that lasts a few minutes. The user may feel lightheaded and dizzy, could lose coordination and have slurred speech and may even experience hallucinations and/or delusions.

Short-Term Effects

In the short term, overexposure to aerosol sprays can cause a person to feel drowsy for several hours. The person could have a headache that lingers in the front of the head. In extreme cases, the sprays can cause nausea, vomiting and confusion. If you experience these symptoms when using aerosol products, stop use immediately and move to an open-air environment. Deliberate inhalation in large doses can cause death by suffocation.

Long-Term Effects

Repeated use can cause damage to the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which controls memory. An abuser may have increased difficulty learning new things or carrying on a simple conversation. It can also damage myelin, a brain tissue that facilitates the passing of messages through nerves. Decreased myelin can lead to muscle spasms and tremors. The abuser may have difficulty with basic actions like walking and talking.

Precautions

Not all aerosol products are the same. Read the label on the can before use. In general, only use aerosol sprays in well-ventilated areas. Hold the can away from your face when spraying. Do not use near heat or an open flame, and when disposing of aerosol products, do not disassemble, puncture, or damage the cans in any way.

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