Alcohol, Tobacco, & Other Drugs

 "Always learn and maintain a balance." - Traditional Value of the Unangan/Unangas

About Substances

It seems to be everywhere: in movies, in songs, in our lives - people partying, drinking, and “having a good time”. We understand there are pressures for people to fit in and those pressures sometimes involve drinking, smoking and use of other substances (or drugs). But substance use can really affect peoples’ lives, especially in young people, because your bodies are still growing and developing. Substances are chemicals that change the way the human body works. Substances can impact people mentally, physically, spiritually, and they can affect relationships, too. 

Substance Use

Substance use is when someone consumes alcohol or other drugs. Substance use does not always lead to harmful or problem use. Many people can drink alcohol or use certain drugs without developing a substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction; however, substance use always comes with a risk of developing a SUD. Someone can begin using substances for various reasons, including peer pressure, to find a sense of adventure, or because they were prescribed by a doctor.

Substance Misuse or Abuse

Substance misuse or abuse is when a person consumes alcohol or other drugs regularly, even though it causes issues in their life. This can mean being late to work or missing school. Misusing substances can affect relationships with friends and family. People who misuse drugs or alcohol may continue to use them despite the harm or negative consequences they cause. Substance use can become problematic when substances are used in excess (consuming too much), or used as a treatment tool or coping mechanism.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

SUD, also called addiction, is a disease that affects a person's brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of legal or illegal drugs or medication despite the harmful consequences. People with SUD have developed a tolerance for alcohol or another drug, which means they need larger amounts to feel the effects (i.e., to feel good, pleasure, and "high") and also experience withdrawal symptoms without the drug or when they try to cut back. Several effective treatments are available to help people recover from SUD.

Your Brain on Drugs

There are two broad types of drugs: depressants and stimulants. Depressants, also known as “downers,” slow down the brain and nervous system. Stimulants, or “uppers,” speed up the brain and nervous system. Mixing drugs can be dangerous. Taking two depressants at the same time can slow down your body extremely and make it hard to control your movements. Taking a stimulant and a depressant together can make your body work harder to deal with both of the effects. Taking two stimulants can speed your body up by increasing your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to dangerous levels. Mixing drugs of any kind can make you more likely to overdose.


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Substance info


Alcohol, AKA "booze," "juice," "sauce," or "liquor" 

Alcohol is a drug that is found in all alcoholic drinks like beer, wine, malt beverages, liquor, and homebrew. Alcohol is a depressant (or "downer"), meaning it slows parts of the brain and central nervous system while also changing the mental process. Alcohol is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars and is the intoxicating ingredient found in wine, beer and spirits. 

Local Laws and Youth Safety

One standard drink of alcohol is equal to to: 12oz of beer at 5% alcohol, 5oz of table wine at 12% alcohol, 1.5oz (a "shot") of liquor at 40% alcohol. In Alaska, people over 21 years of age can buy and drink alcohol legally. It is illegal for anyone to operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol, to provide alcohol to those under 21 years old, and to be intoxicated in most public places. Underage drinking is drinking alcohol before a person is legally old enough to buy and consume it. Remember that laws are put in place to protect the health and well being of young people.

Teens drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Some teens want to experience new things, others feel pressured into drinking by peers and some are looking for a way to deal with stress or other problems. It is important to remember that drinking will probably only make things worst, not better. For example, hangovers the next day after binge drinking (consuming more than 4 or 5 drinks in about 2 hours), feel awful! Also, being under the influence of alcohol can cause behaviors that people wouldn't do if they were not drinking, like having sex without using condoms (can cause the spread of sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy), or driving cars, snowgos, or fourwheelers under the influence. What's more, the use of substances, like alcohol, can influence violence in relationships. If violence already exists, alcohol use make things worst. Sometimes people act in ways they normally wouldn't act while under the influence of alcohol and other substances. For more info about healthy relationships and abuse visit

Alcohol slows down various sections of the brain and central nervous system, this effects a person's ability to control their behavior and bodily functions. It continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink is finished. Alcohol slows communication in the brain and acts as a depressant to the central nervous system, this causes slurred speech, blurry vision and difficultly with memory.

Alcohol and the Teenage Brain

When teens drink, alcohol affects their brains in the short-term–but repeated drinking can also impact it down the road, especially as their brains grown and develop.

Short-term consequences of intoxication (being "drunk"):

  • An intoxicated person has a harder time making good decisions.
  • A person is less aware that his/her behavior may be inappropriate or risky.
  • A person may be more likely to engage in risky behavior, including drinking and driving, sexual activity (like unprotected sex) and aggressive or violent behavior.
  • A person is less likely to recognize potential danger.

Long-term consequences as the teen brain develops:

  • Research shows that drinking during the teen years can interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that:
    • Have negative effects on information processing and learning.
    • Increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.

Alcohol and the Teenage Body

People who drink are affected even before they show signs of being drunk, especially when it comes to decision making abilities.

At first, alcohol causes people to feel upbeat and excited, but this is temporary feeling. If drinking continues, the effects on the body–and the potential risks–multiply. Here's what can happen:

  • Inhibitions and memory: People may say and do things that they will regret later, or possibility not remember at all. Inhibitions are lost, leading to poor-decision making.
  • Decision-making skills: When they drink, individuals are more likely to be impulsive. They may be at greater risk for having an alcohol-related traffic crash, getting into fights, or making unwise decisions about sex.
  • Coordination and physical control: When drinking leads to loss of balance, slurred speech, and blurred vision, even normal activities can become more dangerous.
  • Death: Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to death. If people drink too much, they will eventually get sleepy and pass out. Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means they could vomit and choke, or stop breathing completely.

It is easy to misjudge how long alcohol's effects will last. Alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgement and coordination for hours.


Tobacco: AKA "Cigarettes," "Chew," "Dip," "Hookah"

Tobacco is a leafy plant grown around the world, including parts of the lower 48 and small harvesting in Alaska. There are many chemicals found in tobacco leaves, but nicotine is the one that can lead to addiction. (Addiction is a preventable and irreversible brain disease that may worsen until a person changes their behaviors and gets help). Other chemicals produced by smoking tobacco, such as tar, carbon monoxide, acetaldehyde, and nitrosamines, also can cause serious harm to the body. Tobacco and nicotine products come in many forms. People can smoke, chew, sniff them or inhale their vapors. In Alaska, people 21 years of age and older can legally buy or use tobacco products.

For many Alaska Natives, tobacco use is tied to traditional activities, such as hunting, berry picking and fishing. However, tobacco was first introduced to Alaska Native people by western traders and does not serve a ceremonial, religious or medical function in traditional Alaska Native culture.

What are the consequences of using tobacco?
  • Nicotine can increase someone’s blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing.
  • Using tobacco of any form can harm several organs in the body. This can result in serious health issues like cancers, lung problems, heart disease and stroke, loss of smell and taste, cataracts (blurred vision), aging skin and teeth, risk to unborn babies, and fire-related deaths.
  • Research shows that E-cigarettes (vaping) is just as harmful as smoking traditional cigarettes, especially for young people.
  • Research also shows that using nicotine and tobacco products could act as “gateway drugs.” This means that people who use tobacco products are more likely to use other substances.
  • Using tobacco impacts the natural dopamine levels in the brain, or the “feel good” system. These good feelings wear off and cause people to want to smoke again, leading to addiction.


Heroin, AKA "Smack", "Junk", "Black Tar", "Brown Sugar"

Heroin is a drug made from morphine, which is a psychoactive (mind-altering) substance taken from resin of the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Heroin's color and look depend on how it is made and what else it may be mixed with. It can be white or brown, or a black, sticky substance called "black tar heroin."

Heroin is part of a class of drugs called opioids. Other opioids include some prescription pain relievers, such as codeine, oxycodone (OxyCotin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Heroin use and overdose deaths have been on the rise over the last decade. This increase is related to the growing number of people misusing prescription opioid pain relievers. (Substance misuse is use of a substance that causes problems at home, work, or school, or causes health, legal, or relationship problems). Some people who become addicted to those drugs switch to heroin because it produces similar effects but is cheaper and easier to get. Most people who use heroin report that they first misused prescription opioids. However it is just a small percentage of people who switch from prescription opioids to heroin.

The most common use of heroin is to mix it with water and inject it with a needle. However it can also be sniffed, smoked, or snorted. People who use heroin sometimes combine it with other drugs, such as alcohol and cocaine, which can be very dangerous and significantly raise the risk of overdose.

What are the consequences of using heroin?

Heroin causes a “rush” of good feelings. It can make people feel sleepy and dreamy. In addition:

  • It can slow down heartrate and breathing; cause nausea and vomiting, severe itching and clouded mental functioning.
  • Long term use can cause problems sleeping; collapsed veins from injection drug use (IDU), damaged tissues in the nose from snorting; infection of the heart; abscesses; lung, liver and kidney problems, depression, sexual dysfunction in men and irregular periods in women.
  • People can develop a tolerance, which means they need more heroin to get the same “rush”.
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms can happen: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), sleep problems, severe heroin cravings and uncontrollable leg movements.
  • People who inject heroin and other substances are at high risk for getting HIV and hepatitis C, because of sharing needles or equipment (“works”) with others.
  • Consuming too much heroin can cause overdose. An overdose looks like slowed or stopped breathing and/or heartbeat, blue lips and fingernails, and cold, damp skin, shaking, and inability to speak. A medication called Naloxone or Narcan® can save someone’s live from death due to a heroin or opioid overdose.

Hallucinogens and Other Drugs

Bath Salts: Bath salts are laboratory-made chemicals similar to cathinone. Cathinone is a stimulant found naturally in the khat plant, grown in East Africa and southern Arabia. Bath salts are usually white or brown crystal-like powder and are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled "Not for Human Consumption." Bath salts can be swallowed, snorted through the nose, inhaled, or injected with a needle. Snorting or injecting is the most harmful as they more quickly change the way cells communicate in the brain.

Cough & Cold Medicine: Several cough and cold medicines contain ingredients that are psychoactive (mind-altering) when taken in hither-than-recommended dosages. When taken as directed, cough and cold medicines safely treat symptoms caused by colds and flu. But when taken in higher quantities or when you don't have any symptoms, they may affect the brain in ways very similar to illegal drugs, and can even lead to addiction.

Steroids: Anabolic steroids are medications related to testosterone (male sex hormone) that are made in labs. Doctors use anabolic steroids to treat hormone problems in men, delayed puberty, and muscle loss from some diseases. Bodybuilders and athletes might misuse anabolic steroids in attempts to build muscles and improve athletic performance. Using without a prescription from a doctor is illegal, unsafe, and can have long-term consequences.

LSD: or Acid, is a very strong chemical that can change a person’s mood and cause hallucinations. It can be taken as a pill that is swallowed or it can be a small piece of paper that is wet with liquid LSD.

PCP: or Angel Dust, is a pill or powder that people can eat, smoke, or snort. It is known to make people feel angry and violent.

GHB: is a liquid or powder that is used for people to fall asleep more easily. It is known as a “date rape” drug because it can secretly be put into somebody’s drink, causing them to pass out.

Rohypnol: or Roofies, is a medication used to calm someone down or help them sleep. It is known as a “date rape” drug because it can make somebody not remember what happened for the time right after not taking it.

Ketamine: or K, or Special K, is a medication used to treat pain in animals but some people take it to get high. It can make a person feel far away from what is happening around them. It can be taken by mouth, snorted, or injected with a needle.

Hallucinogens: The drugs LSD, PCP, Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine, are hallucinogens. Hallucinogens are substances that alter a person's awareness of their surroundings as well as their own thoughts and feelings. These substances can create hallucinations, or sensations and images that seem real thought they are not. These substances are sometimes called "club drugs" as they have been associated with night clubs, music festivals, raves and dance parties. They are are also sometimes called "date rape drugs" as they have been associated with sexual assault. 


Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS)

What is NOWS?

NOWS causes withdrawal symptoms in newborns whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy. Opioids include heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many other legal and illegal substances. Regular use of opioids can lead to dependence, substance use disorder (SUD), overdose, and death.

What are symptoms of NOWS?

NOWS symptoms typically occur in the first few days of life and can last a few weeks such as extreme fussiness; difficulty feeding, gaining weight, and/or sleeping; seizures. NOWS can affect a child’s growth and development. The best way to prevent NOWS is not using opioids while pregnant. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) can help people with recovery. 

People who use prescription opioid medicines for a long period of time are at higher risk of becoming dependent on them, developing a substance use disorder (SUD), starting to use heroin and overdosing

  • An overdose is when a person's brain is overloaded with too much of an opioid, causing their breathing to become shallow or even stop and become unresponsive.
  • Overdose symptoms include slowed or stopped breathing and/or heartbeat, blue lips and fingernails, cold and damp skin, shaking and inability to speak. Only a medication called Naloxone or Narcan® can save someone's life from death due to an opioid overdose.


Methamphetamines: "Meth", "Crack", "Ice"

Methamphetamine–also known as "meth"–is a laboratory-made, white, bitter-tasting powder. Sometimes it's made into a white pill or shiny, white or clear rock called crystal. Meth can be made in "super-labs", which are big, illegal laboratories that make the drug in large quantities. However, it can also be made in small labs using cheap, over-the-counter ingredients. Meth is sometimes pressed into little pills that look like Ecstasy to make it more appealing to young people.

Meth is stimulant drug. Stimulants are a class of drugs that can boost mood, increase feelings of well-being, increase energy and make you more alert. But they also have dangerous effects like raising heart rate and blood pressure, and use can lead to addiction.

Meth is classified as a Schedule II drug, meaning it has high potential for abuse and is legally available only through prescription that cannot be refilled. It is prescribed by doctors in limited doses in rare cases for certain medical conditions.

Meth can be used through:

  • Swallow
  • Snorted
  • Injected with a needle
  • Smoked

"Crystal meth" is a large, usually clear crystal that is smoked in a glass pipe. Smoking or injecting the drug delivers it very quickly in the brain, where it produces an immediate and intense high. Because the feeling doesn't last long, users often take the drug repeatedly.

Meth and your body

Meth speeds up breathing and raises blood pressure. Meth can make people hyperactive or full of energy. People might talk and move around a lot. Often people will not eat or sleep when using meth. It can make people feel itchy, causing them to scratch their skin and create sores. People can have burns on their lips or fingers from holding a hot meth pipe. Meth can cause overheating, causing people to pass out, which can kill you. Physically it can make people look very old, it can cause dry mouth. People who choose to inject meth can get HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. People who use meth can get HIV/AIDS by having sex without using condoms, or if they inject meth by sharing needles. Being under the influence of substances like meth can cause people to act differently than if they were not under the influence, and cause behavior that can be very dangerous, like driving vehicles, or influencing violence. 


Marijuana, AKA "Weed", "Pot", "Mary Jane", "Hash"

Marijuana is the combination of dried leaves and flowers from a Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Alaska law defines marijuana as leaves, stems, or flowers (the "buds") of the marijuana plant; marijuana concentrates, such as oils, hashes, and waxes; and a wide variety of marijuana-infused products, such as edibles, tinctures, and topicals.

Of the more than 500 chemicals in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, is responsible for many of the drug's mild-altering effects. It's a chemical that distorts how the mind perceives the world. In other words, it is what makes you high.

There are a few different ways people use marijuana:

  • Smoking hand-rolled cigarettes called joints or blunts (often made by slicing open cigars and replacing some or all of the tobacco with marijuana).
  • Inhaling smoke using glass pipes or water pipes called bongs
  • Inhaling vapor using devices that pull the active ingredients (including THC) from the marijuana into the vapor. Some vaporizers use a marijuana liquid extract.
  • Drinking tea brewed with marijuana or eating food with marijuana cooked into it, sometimes called edibles– such as brownies, cookies, or candy.

The amount of THC in marijuana has increased over the past few decades. In the early 1990s, the average THC content in marijuana was less than 4 percent. It is now more than 12 percent, and much higher in some products such as oils and other extracts. There have been reports of people seeking help in emergency rooms with symptoms, including nervousness, shaking and psychosis (having false thoughts or seeing or hearing things that aren't there), after consuming high concentrations of THC.

Prescription Pain Medication

Prescription Pain Medication: Heroin, Fentanyl, and Morphine

Prescription pain relief medication, or opioids, that are taken as prescribed by a medical professional are usually safe and can reduce pain.

Opioids are medications that work similar to brain chemicals called endorphins which the human body makes naturally to relieve pain. Prescription pain medicine (opioids) are safe when used as directed by a doctor. People misuse prescription opioid medications by taking them in a way that is not intended, such as:

  • taking somebody else's prescription (even if it is for medical reason like relieving pain)
  • taking more than prescribed, or taking medicine in some way that is different than prescribed (for instance, crushing pills into powder to snort or inject the drug)
  • taking them to get "high"
  • mixing them with other drugs or alcohol. (Your pharmacist can tell you what other drugs/medicine are safe to use with prescription pain relievers)

In nature, opioids are found in the poppy plant. Prescription opioids usually come in pill or liquid form, and are given to treat severe pain, serious sports injuries, or cancer. If you are in the hospital they can be given through an IV (needle or tube) in your arm. Opioids are sometimes prescribed to treat pain that lasts a long time (chronic pain).

When opioids are taken as prescribed by a medical professional can be relatively safe and can reduce pain. However, taking prescription opioids puts a person at risk for dependence or addiction. (Addiction is a preventable and treatable brain disease that can worsen if someone does not get help). Dependence means you feel withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug. Continued use can lead to addiction, where you continues to seek out the drug and misuse it despite negative consequences. These risks increase when medications are misused. Prescription medications are some of the most commonly misused drugs by teens (after tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana).

Opioid medications can be natural, created in labs from natural opioids, or synthetic (human-made). Common opioids and their medical uses include:

Opioid Types

  • Oxycodone (OxyCotin, Percodan, Percocet)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • Hydromorphine (Dilaudid)
  • Meperidine (Demerol)
  • Methadone

Conditions Opioid Treat

  • Severe pain, often after surgery
  • Some forms of long-lasting (severe) pain
  • cough and diarrhea


Spice, AKA "K2", "Fake Weed", "Moon Rocks", "Skunk", "Black Mamba", "Bliss", "Genie", Yucatan Fire", "Bombay Blue"

What is Spice?

Spice is often called “synthetic marijuana” or “fake weed” because some of the chemicals in it are similar to the ones in marijuana. But, its effects are sometimes very different from marijuana and often much stronger and can cause death. It is often labeled with “not for human consumption” and disguised as incense. People smoke Spice by rolling it in papers like marijuana or tobacco cigarettes, drink it as an herbal tea or consume it as liquid in e-cigarettes.

What are the consequences of using Spice?

Spice can cause:

  • fast heart rate, high blood pressure, vomiting, extreme anxiety or nervousness, hallucinations, confusion, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts.
  • People who use Spice can experience heart attack, kidney damage, or seizures.
  • Spice can cause headaches and make the user nauseous.
  • Spice can change the way the brain functions. People who use Spice can develop a substance use disorder (SUD), which means they cannot stop even if they really want to. If they do they may have withdrawal symptoms like headaches, anxiety, depression and irritability.



Cocaine and the Teenage Brain

There are many neurotransmitters in a person's brain, but dopamine is the main one that makes people feel good when they do something they enjoy. Normally, dopamine gets recycled back into the cell that released it, thus shutting off the signal. Stimulants like cocaine prevent the dopamine from being recycled, causing a buildup of the neurotransmitter in the brain. It is this flood of dopamine that reinforces taking cocaine, "training" the brain to repeat the behavior. The drug can cause a feeling of intense pleasure and increased energy.

With repeated use, stimulants like cocaine can disrupt how the brain's dopamine system works, reducing a person's ability to feel pleasure from normal, everyday activities. People will often develop tolerance, which means they must take more of the drug to get the desired effect. If a person becomes addicted, they might take the drug just to feel "normal."

After the "high" of the cocaine wears off, many people experience a "crash" and feel tired or sad for days. They also experience a strong craving to take cocaine again to try to feel better.

Cocaine and the Teenage Body

Cocaine is a stimulant so it gives the body a feeling of stimulation and alertness, which can be both pleasurable and harmful. Cocaine's short-term effects appear quickly and disappear within a few minutes to an hour. How long and intense these effects are depends on the method of use. Here are some ways cocaine affects the body:

  • Extreme happiness and energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia (feeling like people are out to get you)
  • High body temperature
  • High blood pressure and fast heartbeat–leading to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Inability to sleep

Snorting cocaine can lead to loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, nasal damage and trouble swallowing.

Smoking cocaine can lead to severe coughing, asthma and lung damage.

Consuming cocaine by mouth can cause damage to intestines (between the stomach and anus) caused by reduced blood flow.

Injecting cocaine through a needle puts a user at high risk of HIV and Hepatitis (a liver disease) through shared needles.

All methods of cocaine use can result in poor nutrition and weight loss, ultimately affecting organs throughout your body.


Inhalants: Bold | Laughing Gas | Poppers | Rush

Inhalants are substances that are misused by people inhaling them. Although different inhalants cause different effects, they generally fall into one of four categories.

Volatile Solvents are liquids that become gas at room temperature. They are found in:

  • paint thinner, nail polish remover, degreaser, dry-cleaning fluid, gasoline and contact cement
  • some art of office supplies, such as correction fluid, felt-tip marker fluid, glue and electronic contact cleaner

Aerosols are substances under pressure that are released as fine spray. They include:

  • spray paint, hair spray, deodorant spray, vegetable oil sprays and fabric protector spray

Gases may be in household or commercial products, or used in the medical field to provide pain relief. They are found in:

  • butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers and refrigerant gases
  • anesthesia, including ether, chloroform, halothane and nitrous oxide (commonly called "laughing gas").

Nitrates are often sold in small brown bottles and labeled as:

  • organic nitrites, such as amyl, butyl,an dcyclohexyl nitrites and other related compounds
  • amyl nitrite, used in the past by doctors to help with chest pain and someimes used today to diagnose heart problems
  • nitrites, now banned but can still be found being sold in small bottles labeled as "video head cleaner," "room deodorizer," "leather cleaner," or "liquid aroma."

People who use inhalants breathe in the fumes (also known as “huffing” or “sniffing” chemicals) through their nose or mouth.

Inhalants are usually products that can be bought in a convenience store or found at home or work. Inhalants are substances that contain dangerous chemicals that can affect a person's mood and seriously harm their body. Products like these contain dangerous chemicals that slow down the central nervous system and can cause long-term damage to the kidneys and brain function.

Inhalants and the Teenage Brain

The lungs absorb inhaled chemicals into the bloodstream very quickly, sending them through the brain and body immediately. Nearly all inhalants (except nitrites) produce a "high" by slowing down brain activity. Nitrites, in contrast, expand and relax blood vessels.

Many brain systems may be involved in producing effects of different inhalants. Knowing how the brain functions helps us understand what happens during drug use.

  • Damage to nerve fibers. Long-term inhalant use can break down the protective sheath around certain nerve fibers in the brain and body. This hurts the ability to nerve cells to send messages, which can cause muscle spasms and tremors or even permanent trouble with basic actions like walking, bending, and talking. These effects are similar to what happens to people with the disease multiple sclerosis.
  • Damage to brain cells. Inhalants also can damage brain cells by preventing them from getting enough oxygen. The effects of this condition, also known as brain hypoxia, depend on the area of the brain that gets damaged. The hippocampus, for example, is responsible for memory, so someone who repeatedly uses inhalants may be unable to learn new things or may have a hard time carrying on simple conversations. If the cerebral cortex is damaged, it will effect a person's ability to solve complex problems and plan ahead. And, if the cerebellum is affected, it can cause a person to move slowly or be clumsy.

Inhalants and the Teenage Body

Inhalants can cause the following health effects:

  • Confusion
  • Upset stomach
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hallucinations/delusions
  • Headache
  • Sudden sniffing death due to the heart stopping
  • death from suffocation, seizures, coma, or choking

Where to Get Help

Alaska Careline/Suicide Prevention

Alaska Careline/Someone to talk to Line (Suicide Prevention)

  • Crisis Line (24/7)
    • 1-877-266-4357
  • Text '4help' to 839863
    • Text line available Tues-Sat, from 3PM - 11PM

Alaska 211

To find local resources contact Alaska 211:


To help a loved one enter treatment:

SAMHSA Treatment Finder

Millions of Americans have a substance use disorder (SUD). Help is available.

Substance Use Disorders-Family Assistance

For tips on talking with friends and loved ones loved ones about substance use disorders:

National Institute on Drug Abuse

For information about drugs/substances and national help: