aerosol cans
File photo: Aerosol cans be used to 'huff' Getty/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN

On 17 February, a 32 year-old man was found dead among dozens of aerosol cans - one being in his mouth - scattered around his flat in Manhattan, New York.

Police later announced that he had apparently been inhaling the compressed substance within the cans, NY Post reported. This is what is commonly referred to as 'huffing'.

Huffing is a general term used to describe "various types of inhalant abuse" according to American Addiction Centres. One of the active chemicals commonly found in aerosol cans is toluene, a toxic chemical that is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and produces an excited and euphoric high.

Inhalant abuse is most common among children and youths who cannot access other drugs, however it is not unique to this age group. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that about 527,000 people 12 or older reported using inhalants in 2015. The majority of these people were between the ages of 12 and 17.

Huffing is split up into four different categories - liquids, sprays, gases and nitrites. This includes paint thinners, glues, hair sprays, deodorant, nitrous oxide and 'poppers', according to Drug Free World.

What are the effects of huffing?

Huffing has been compared to alcohol in the effects it induces. In addition, according to Medicine Net, users can experience drowsiness, lightheadedness, loss of inhibition, dizziness and hallucinations or delusions.

What are the dangers of huffing?

Users can experience depression and mood changes, weight loss, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability and weakness.

Sudden sniffing death can occur even after one use and the chemicals ingested can lead to a loss of consciousness, widespread cellular damage from lack of oxygen, cardiac arrest, brain damage and liver and kidney damage, according to Drug Abuse.

Can you become addicted to it?

Some people can start to experience withdrawal symptoms from huffing resulting in a dependence on them.

How can you recover from addiction to it?

Treatment is comparable to other drug addictions in that it usually involves ensuring the person is well enough to attend therapy, in which they will explore the motivation behind using them. Then, upon being deemed healthy they are released again.