The risks of 'chroming' and solvent abuse
Solvent abuse can result in sudden death or long-term health and emotional effects. Here's what you need to know.
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Written by Amber
Updated over a week ago

'Chroming', or solvent abuse, is when you get high by breathing in or inhaling chemicals like petrol, glue, paint, gases or solvent. Although people of all ages engage in chroming, it happens most often amongst young people and teenagers. One reason for this is that many of the chemicals used for chroming can be purchased as over-the-counter household items from the supermarket, or found within the home.

Commonly misused products are lighter fluid, nail polish remover, whipped cream bulbs, spray paint and paint thinner. Chroming is also known as 'sniffing' or 'huffing'.

Solvent abuse can result in damage to the brain, lungs, liver and other vital organs. In addition, it can also cause sudden death and can lead to serious long-term health issues. Remember, if you need support or just someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

Why do people Chrome?

Inhalants can change the way your brain talks to other parts of the body, and may cause you to feel drunk or high. Many inhalants affect the brain in ways similar to depressants like tranquillisers, sedatives, or alcohol, although the effects are usually shorter-lasting. Other inhalants like nitrites can make your blood vessels larger and your heart beat faster. Nitrites are found in some room fragrances and medicines. This can cause you to feel very warm and jumpy.

Glues, gases, solvents, and aerosols contain volatile substances which are depressants, which means they slow down your brain and body's responses and produce a similar effect to being drunk.

There are different and often complex reasons why people use drugs and alcohol. When someone chromes, it’s usually for the same reason that they use other drugs. One reason why people chrome is that the effects tend to be felt quickly.

What happens to your body when you chrome?

The likelihood and level of harm that can result from chroming depend on many factors. This includes things like how much you’ve inhaled, your gender, age, body weight, how much you’ve had to eat, your tolerance, your mental state, what other drugs you’ve consumed, and others. As with any drug, the most reliable method to prevent harm from chroming is to avoid it altogether.

Some of the immediate effects of chroming may include:

  • Tiredness or drowsiness

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion or giddiness

  • Feeling more relaxed or feeling on edge

  • Losing coordination and being clumsy

  • Loss of inhibition (taking greater risks)

  • Ringing in your ears

  • Slurred speech

  • Coughing or sneezing

  • Eyes that are glazed, red or watery

  • Running or bleeding nose

Why is chroming harmful?

There is no amount of solvent that can be chromed that is safe. The more you take and the longer you do it, the greater the risk.

Short-term problems from chroming might include:

  • Rapid death from 'Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome', which leads to heart failure

  • Death from falls, road accidents, drowning, etc.

  • Greater chance of getting involved in violence

  • Chest pains or unusual heart rate

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Hallucinations, psychotic episodes or even paranoia

  • Burns from highly flammable chemicals

  • Falling unconscious or going into a coma

  • Seizures or blackouts

Long-term effects of chroming

Chroming can result in serious harm among long-term users. These can include:

  • Brain damage

  • Hearing problems

  • Liver and kidney damage

  • Difficulty remembering things or a short attention span

  • Noticeable mood swings

  • Strong feelings of anger, depression, irritability or anxiety

  • Constant feeling of being tired

  • Intense thirst, stomach issues, or severe weight loss

  • Gradual loss over control over your muscles and ability to walk

Is chroming addictive?

Chroming can become addictive, much like many other drugs. Although addiction is a complex issue with many underlying reasons and causes, an addiction to chroming has some common signs, including:

  • You need to sniff or chrome to get through the day to “feel normal”

  • Not doing it makes you feel sick or dizzy

  • You feel down, anxious or angry when you’re not chroming

  • Your hands get shakes or tremors

How to seek help

If you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of these symptoms after chroming, call an ambulance immediately:

  • Breathing problems

  • Chest pain

  • Falling unconscious or difficulty staying awake

  • Confusion, disorientation or hallucinations

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • Blurred vision or dilated pupils

  • Uncontrollable shaking or tremors

For help with ongoing solvent abuse and any underlying mental health concerns, speak to your GP or community health team or contact an alcohol and drug treatment service.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app to connect to our team of qualified, caring health professionals.

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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