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A. BRAIN The chemicals abused by inhalant users affect different parts of the brain, producing a variety of sensory and psychological disorders. Many inhalants are thought to dissolve the protective myelin sheath that surrounds neurons - brain cells - resulting in cell death (see brain diagram).

B. CEREBRAL CORTEX Cellular death here causes permanent personality changes, memory impairment, hallucinations and learning disabilities.

C. CEREBELLUM This is the center that controls balance and coordination. Inhalant-related damage results in loss of coordination and slurred speech. Chronic abusers experience tremors and uncontrollable shaking.

D. OPHTHALMIC NERVE Toluene may affect this nerve causing sight disorders.

A. BLOOD Some substances like nitrites and methylene chloride (paint thinner) chemically block the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood.

B. LUNGS Repeated use of spray paint as an inhalant can cause lung damage.

C. HEART Abuse of inhalants can result in "sudden sniffing death syndrome." This is due to a sudden and unexpected disturbance of the heart's rhythm. All inhalants can produce sudden sniffing death syndrome.

D. LIVER Halogenated compounds like trichloroethylene (a component of aerosol paints and correction fluid) have been linked to damage of this organ.

E. KIDNEY Inhalants containing toluene impair the kidney's ability to control the amount of acid in the blood. This is reversible when toluene leaves the body but, in the long-term, kidney stones may develop.

A. MUSCLE Chronic inhalant abuse can lead to muscle wasting, reduced muscle tone and strength.

B. BONE MARROW Benzene, a component of gasoline, has been shown to cause leukemia.


PERIPHERAL NERVOUS SYSTEM Chronic inhalation of nitrous oxide (whipped cream propellant) and hexane (found in some glues and camp stove fuels) results in damage to the peripheral nerves. Symptoms can include numbness, a tingling sensation or total paralysis.
ACOUSTIC NERVE AND MUSCLE Toluene inhalation destroys cells that relay sound to the brain. Chronic abusers can become deaf.