Introduction. Inhalant use among various populations in Mexico occurs within the context of its legality, inadequate health regulation and supervision of its production and sales, high availability and low cost, combined with the pleasurable effects of inhaling, which vary according to the context and users.
Objective. This paper describes the social practices involved in the co-construction of inhalant use contexts of two groups of Mexican middle school students and their reported effects.
Method. Photo elicitation methodology was used, with two videotapes produced by students on school sociality practices where inhalants we are used and then analyzed in discussion groups.
Results. The theoretical categorization of the data was performed using Atlas.ti software. It was found that although the students inhaled toluene, only one of the students experienced dizziness and headaches, while another classmate felt sleepy. The other video was different; students got high, experiencing euphoria, emotional disinhibition and hallucinations. Dizziness, pain and drowsiness seem largely determined by toluene and alcohol use, whereas the different effects appear to be caused by the sociality of the contexts of inhalant use, students’ subjectivity and their length of consumption.
Discussion and conclusion. It is argued that students enjoy inhalant use because getting high reinforces their sociality. The article concludes that inhalant use should be discouraged by incorporating the agency and subjectivity of youth, without neglecting the macro-social factors involved in the production, marketing and regulation of inhalants.