How does sniffing glue and sharpies make you high?



Always wondered this I see posters in my school about it too

In: 10208

Chemicals like those found in certain markers, glues, paints, and other solvents contain chemicals that readily turn into gases when exposed to air, and when you breathe them in, the gasses readily absorb into your bloodstream and get carried to your brain. Once in your brain, they act in one of two ways – either they simply displace oxygen (so the high you feel is actually from lack of oxygen), or they mimic, interfere with, or alter the effects of certain chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that are responsible for brain cells sending signals to each other.

Permanent and rubber cement contain solvents such as toluene, acetone, or xylene which are volatile liquids at room temperature which means they can easily be absorbed by the lungs, pass through capillaries, and quickly enter the bloodstream. Since they’re small molecules, they can often pass the blood-brain barrier as well.

In the brain, these volatile solvents interfere with nerve signaling pathways (such as NDMA, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, GABA, etc) which produce the immediate “high” when they affect certain areas associated with pleasure response, but also the side effects (headache, nausea, etc). Long-term use of solvents can actually cause permanent damage to these nerves through build up of high-concentrations and destruction of myelin.

Other inhalants—such as nitrous oxide—work similarly by temporarily interfering with cell receptors, but long-term deplete essential cofactor vitamins such as B12, which is also necessary for nerve function. So long term use can again cause permanent nerve damage, sensory loss, and paralysis, but through an additional mechanism.

Anaesthetist here. Fun fact: almost all short chain volatile organic molecules can cause changes to the brain. Our general anaesthetic drugs such as sevoflurane, have a few carbon atoms in a chain, and a low boiling point so they create vapour at room temperatures. The solvents in markers and glue are also short carbon chain molecules. When you breathe them in, they dissolve in your blood and travel to the brain. We are not quite sure how they work in the brain. Very likely they dissolve in the cell membrane of the neuron cells and disrupt the electrical activity if those cells. Even alcohol does something similar – it has 2 carbons in its chain and is volatile.

The trick in anaesthesia is to find a molecule that has these properties but is not toxic to tissues such as brain and liver cells. The drugs we use in anaesthesia are completely reversible, once they wash out of your system, the cell functions return to how they were previously. Glue and marker pens won’t have that safety profile.

Solvents also dissolve the emergency supply of fat around your heart, which in the UK at least has made it illegal for police officers to chase glue sniffers, as when they run any prolonged distance their hearts stop. Brain and heart damage for a momentary buzz, its insanity.

So if you die from lack of air you feel like someone getting high? Cool.

Lowkey began sniffing sharpies a few years ago because I was broke and didn’t have drugs and while doing that I kept trying and trying cause I wasn’t feeling anything and fast forward today I am dealing with a shit load of mental problems. So Do Not do dumb shit like that everyone