Neural basis of inhalant abuse
Balster RL.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology,
Medical College of Virginia,
Virginia Commonwealth University,
Richmond 23298, USA.
Drug Alcohol Depend. 1998 Jun-Jul;51(1-2):207-14.


It should be apparent from this review that far less is known about the neural basis for inhalant abuse than for other forms of drug abuse. This reflects a lack of research interest in this area (Balster, 1997). Indeed, conclusions are difficult to draw. In the case of the volatile alkyl nitrites, the most reasonable hypothesis at this time is that the cellular basis for their abuse resides in their actions on smooth muscles to produce vasodilation and relaxation, however, direct effects on the brain cannot be ruled out. Although there is some evidence that analgesic effects of nitrous oxide may involve opiate systems, even this conclusion is controversial. There is no evidence that opiate systems play a role in nitrous oxide intoxication or reinforcement. The mechanisms for these effects are unknown. They may reflect the same actions on lipid membranes or on hydrophobic sites on unspecified proteins that have been proposed as mechanisms for nitrous oxide anesthesia. In the case of the volatile solvents, fuels and anesthetics we are faced with a wide variety of specific chemicals which may produce different profiles of pharmacological effects. There is evidence that the prototypic abused solvents toluene and trichloroethane produce acute effects similar to subanesthetic concentrations of general anesthetics, as well as to the effects of classical CNS depressant drugs, such as alcohol and the barbiturates. For the anesthetics, evidence suggests that enhancement of GABAergic inhibition may be an important cellular target for their acute effects, just as it is for alcohol and other depressant drugs. For toluene, as with alcohol, recent evidence suggests a possible role for inhibition of glutamatergic neurotransmission involving NMDA receptors. Toluene has also been shown to have some dopaminergic effects which may be important to its abuse. As for the large number of other abused vapors, practically no information can be found on their cellular actions, and certainly not on actions that may be relevant to their abuse. This entire area would seem an important direction for future research.
Nitrous oxide
Adverse effects
Obstetric anesthesia
Molecular mechanisms
Inhalational techniques
Anaesthesia: rivalries and discoveries

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