The Effects of Glue Vapor on the Brain

Updated November 21, 2016

Inhaling glue vapours or other solvents is a seriously dangerous thing to do. It can kill you. When inhalants, including glue vapours, are sniffed it is called "huffing." As soon as you inhale, you could be well on your way to unconsciousness or suffocation. The fumes depress your respiratory system to the point that it can cease working altogether. The glue also affects your heart rate and the steadiness of your heartbeat. It is very possible to suffer Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, where the heart stops beating. If you do survive, you are still damaging your brain, killing brain cells, along with your bone marrow, sense of smell and hearing.

Huffing or Sniffing Glue

When glue or other kinds of solvents are inhaled this is considered solvent abuse, or in layman's terms, sniffing glue. Solvents that are misused in this manner include aerosols (hairspray), lighter fluid, nitrites (amyl nitrate), spray paint, anaesthesia gases such as nitrous oxide, paints and paint thinners, dry cleaning fluid and gas.

Habitual Use

Glue sniffing can become habitual. The effect is comparable to drinking alcohol but not as predictable, notes The sniffer can experience ringing in his ears, sneezing, slurred speech, impaired vision, hallucinations, unsteadiness, drowsiness and nausea.


Some of these solvents contain carcinogens, so you may be introducing cancer provoking agents directly into your body when you inhale glues.


People choose to inhale glue vapours and other solvents because of the hallucinogenic results that last a quarter of an hour and cause the person to enter a state of stupor. A headache is also part of the deal. The residual effects can last for hours. If glue products are regularly inhaled, it can cause brain damage as well as damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys. Sniffing can lead to outright heart failure.


Additionally, the fumes from the glue can destroy the lining in the nasal cavity, which makes it hurt to breath. You may develop skin rashes, respiratory problems such as bronchitis, loss of concentration and mood swings as a result of inhaling glue.

How It Works

The solvents work directly on your nervous system and are a depressive, like alcohol. They are quickly absorbed through your lungs and then move to your other organs, including your brain and through your blood stream. If you sniff products such as chloroform, this can result in production of toxic substances in your body and can cause liver cancer.

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About the Author

Cindi Pearce is a graduate of Ohio University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in journalism. She completed both the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Pearce has been writing professionally for over 30 years.