Addiction To Other Substances

Inhalants, Sleeping Pills, Psychoactive Plants, Designer Drugs

When someone mentions "addiction," most people think of addictions that involve such substances as alcohol, opiates, stimulants, and benzodiazepines, or pathological behaviors related gambling or sex. However, individuals may experiment with a wide variety of substances, especially if other options are not easily available to them.


Inhalants (also referred to as whippets, poppers, and snappers) are chemical vapors that a person breathes in order to feel a "high" that is believed to mimic alcohol intoxication. Inhalants are found in common household products: some examples include those that contain aerosols, gases, or liquids that vaporize when exposed to air. The effect of inhaling these substances is usually immediate, often resulting in dizziness and tingling sensations, and sometimes unconsciousness. Although the exact potential consequences vary by substance, there can be dangerous, and sometimes irreversible, effects of abusing inhalants, including brain damage, hearing loss, and even suffocation in extreme cases.

Sleep Aids

While not all sleep aids are addictive, there are some that require caution and professional supervision. Lunesta (eszopiclone), for example, is not recommended for individuals with a history of substance abuse, and sudden cessation may result in a number of withdrawal symptoms. Other sleep aids including Halcion (triazolam), Restoril (temazepam), Sonata (zaleplon), and estazolam come with warnings that they may be habit-forming.

Psychoactive Plants

There are many plants with psychoactive features, and these are often abused as recreational drugs. Hallucinogens, such as marijuana, are derived from plants and used to create dream-like, or psychedelic, effects. Marijuana (cannabis) contains the psychoactive ingredient THC; although cannabis is not believed to be physically addictive, it can produce memory impairment and altered perception. Among the numerous other plants that may be abused are Salvia divinorum, morning glories (Turbina corymbosa), khat, and some cactus species.

Designer Drugs

Designer drugs, manufactured in illegal labs to produce chemically altered substances, are often used by younger individuals in club or party settings. Effects are similar to narcotics or hallucinogens. Designer drugs are dangerous, as they are unregulated and often sold on the black market. Ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, and bath salts are among a few of the more popular designer drugs. Additionally, Spice (K2), a synesthetic form of marijuana, is thought to produce effects similar to those created by marijuana.

Risk Factors

The exact risk factors for addiction to these substances depend on the specific substance. The list below outlines some situations that may put an individual at higher risk of addiction in general:

  • Isolation or minimal interpersonal relationships
  • Peer pressure in adolescent groups
  • Personal or familial history of substance use disorders
  • Being male
  • Having a psychiatric disorder
  • Type of substance being abused (some are more addictive than others)

Youth can also be a risk factor for substances like inhalants (easy to come by) or designer drugs (associated with some aspects of popular youth culture). Additionally, individuals who have insomnia or anxiety (which can cause insomnia) may have an elevated risk for abusing sleep aids.

Although addictions to these substances are less common than are addictions to heroin, alcohol, cocaine, and other better-known substances, they can lead to equally devastating consequences. Email or call the UCLA Dual Diagnosis Program to get help for yourself or someone else today.