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What is Inhalant Use Disorder?

A diagnosis of “inhalant use disorder” is based on a problematic pattern of using a hydrocarbon-based inhalant substance leading to significant impairment or distress. Inhalant substances include solvents for glues and adhesives; propellants (e.g., for aerosol paint sprays, hair sprays); paint thinners; and fuels (e.g., gasoline and propane). Inhalants are associated with a number of problems including conduct disorder, mood disorders, suicidality, and physical and sexual abuse or neglect.

A diagnosis for inhalant use disorder requires at least two of the following factors, occurring within a 12-month period:

  • The inhalant is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use of the inhalant.
  • A great deal of time is spent trying to obtain the inhalant substance, use it, or recover from its effects.
  • A person has a craving or strong desire to use the inhalant.
  • Recurrent use of the inhalant substance results in a failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home.
  • A person continues use of the substance despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused of exacerbated by the effects of its use.
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of using the inhalant.
  • There is recurrent use of the inhalant substance in situations that are physically hazardous.
  • Use of the inhalant substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely caused or exacerbated by the substance.
  • Tolerance is developed, as defined by either of the following:
    • A need for increased amounts of the inhalant substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
    • A reduced effect with continued use of the same amount of the inhalant substance.

Inhalant use disorder is rated as mild with the presence of 2-3 symptoms, moderate with 4-5 symptoms, and severe with 6 or more symptoms.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

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