Inhalant drug use and street youth: Ethnographic insights from Mexico City

Roy Gigengack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The inhalation of volatile substances with intentions of intoxication affects the lives of marginalized youths around the globe, but remains poorly understood. Based upon long-term ethnographic enquiry, this chapter describes the inhalant use of Mexico City's young street people from their perspective, and understands it as learned behavior and lived experience. The "normalcy" of inhalant use in Mexico City is striking; streetwise inhabitants have knowledge about inhalants and inhalant users, and act accordingly. Users distinguish and classify a range of inhalants and sniffing techniques. Complicated patterns of inhalant use indicate the becoming of what are known as "inhalant fiends": formation within users of gusto, the acquired appetite for inhalants, and of vicio, the devotion to inhalants. An elaborate street culture of sniffing thus emerges: a complex configuration of shared perspectives and embodied practices, shaped by and shaping social exclusion. These findings are relevant to appreciate and address the acquired appetite and devotion of the so-called inhalant fiends.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStimulants, Club and Dissociative Drugs, Hallucinogens, Steroids, Inhalants and International Aspects
EditorsVictor Preedy
PublisherElsevier Inc
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780128003756
ISBN (Print)9780128002124
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2016


  • Acquired appetite
  • Ethnography
  • Inhalants
  • Mexico
  • Philosophy of addiction
  • Street children
  • Volatile substances


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