Butane is a colorless, highly flammable gas that has been known to be used as an inhalant to cause dissociation and hallucinations. In this respect, butane use can cause death through ill-considered/dangerous administration, fatal arrhythmia through its action on the heart or respiratory arrest through CNS depression from an over-dose. Although it has no known action of cell toxicity, there exists a link with selective thalamic sequelae (brain damage) and chronic butane (ab)use.

Please note that this is a work in progress and that it is not yet fully referenced or corroborated. Anything enclosed in ** are part of the blank wiki notes not yet removed because they are still revelant for anyone wishing to add/amend the wiki, of which, please feel free to do so.
It is important to note that there is a lot of information missing here as well as references.

Introduction to Butane

[​IMG]n-Butane is an aliphatic hydrocarbon with the formula C4H10 and is a colourless, highly flammable gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, whose boiling point is -0.5°C and flash point at -60°C. This is the more stable isomer.
i-Butane (isobutane, methylpropane) is the structural isomer of n-butane, has a boiling point of -11.7°C and is a highly flammable aliphatic hydrocarbon.

Butane can be found in natural gas and the air

Butane (mainly n-butane) has a myriad of uses across several sectors from the manufacturing industry to the food industry to the rubber and petrochemical industry, as well as providing fuel and heat in its own right. It forms the main propellant for many commercial and industrial aerosol sprays, and forms the basis for, often mixed with propane and/or isobutane, cigarette lighter gas/refills, camping gas and fuel supply for those not connected to a gas mains. Products containing butane, other than those for cigarette lighter gas/refills, may also contain propene and/or butenes (unsaturated hydrocarbons).

Using Butane

Ways of administration:

Butane is nearly always stored as a pressurised gas in valved cannisters, freely available to the general public either as a fuel mix, or dissolved as a propellant in other substances, methods of administration involve inhaling either directly or indirectly from the cannister or 'bottle'.
As a result, many dangerous practices are common, and not without their often fatal casualties.

Direct Inhalation

This is possibly the most dangerous method of administration as it involves spraying the pressurised gas directly, from the valve of the pressurised container, into the mouth.
An example of this extremely unsafe butane inhalation practice (in this case using a gas lighter refill bottle):
The valve nozzle is gripped between the teeth and the bottle pushed against them causing the gas to discharge directly into the mouth and down the throat. This method can cause instant death through damage to the trachea (wind pipe) but is more likely through irritation of the vagal nerve (through spasm of the trachea) due to the rapid cooling as the gas expands, leading to fatal arrhythmia.
The same dangers apply when placing the mouth over the nozzle of a 'camping gas bottle' and turning on the tap, or any other direct application of pressurised gas to the trachea.

Huffing (sometimes called ragging)

Depositing, by concentrated discharge, the gas onto a rag or cloth, placing the rag or cloth over the mouth and breathing through the cloth so as to inhale the gas as it evaporates. This can be considered the least dangerous of the common methods of administration as the massive temperature drop from discharge has occurred outside of the body, there is oxygen also being drawn and there are generally less things that can go wrong.

Bagging (sometimes called Huffing too)

When butane is deposited (by concentrated discharge) into an air tight bag, such as a paper or plastic bag, the opening of the bag is placed over the mouth in such a way as to be effectively 'sealed around it'. The air/gas in the bag is then breathed for effect, similar in technique to calming hyper excitability/panic attack by breathing into a paper bag, re-breathing the air in the bag.
This method can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and collapse/loss of consciousness through oxygen displacement (asphyxiation), this could easily lead to death if the bag is placed over the head.

Gas Mask

The attachment of breathing apparatus to a butane gas bottle (usually like those used for camping/caravans/houses not attached to gas mains) where constant application of the gas is possible in a (semi-)controlled fashion.
This method involves great risk of cyanosis and/or asphyxiation easily leading to death. However, the risks involved may be reduced by ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen along with the supply of butane. Another safe guard may be the presence of system by which the supply of butane could be eliminated, and the flow of 'normal' air be resumed, in the case of unconsciousness/cyanosis.

Effects of Butane

In Summary

The predominant effects of butane can be described as of a hallucinatory and/or a dissociative* nature, causing visual hallucinations (altered perception), vivid aural hallucinations (altered perception), psychedelic thought processes/hallucinations of mind, time distortion. These effects are often reported as having a metallic and/or cyclic/repetitive quality.
Other common effects are a feeling of “head swim" or drunkeness and mild ataxia (stumbling, clumsiness, lack of co-ordination).
There may also be a vasodilatory/"face flushing" effect.

Exposure Effects
Low Affected vision, Coughing, Euphoria, Excitation, Nausea, Salivation
Medium Altered perceptions/Hallucinations of Mind, of Visual Senses, of Aural Senses, Ataxia, CNS Depression, DissociationI, Hypoxia, Tinnitus, Nystagmus (Involuntary Eye Movement)
Large AnoxiaII, CNS and Respiratory Depression, ComaIII, Dysarthria (disruption to speech), Polarisation of Myocardial Cell Walls, Sudden DeathIV, Tachycardia
Pressurised gas directly into the mouth Fatal Arrythmia/Tachycardia by irritation of the vagal nerve, Spasms of the trachia

I needs a source – this is based on anecdote.
II as a result of oxygen displacement.
III as a result of strong CNS and respiratory depression
IV when large amounts of adrenalin are released, such as in fear.
Note: this table is assuming that there has been no special consideration in regards to oxygen supply.


Pharmacodynamically, little is actually known of the effects of butane on the human body and mind.

A portion of butanes intoxicating effects may be down to oxygen displacement and/or asphyxiation.

There is some experimental data to suggest that butane 'stabilises' or polarises the cells of the myocardial cell wall (in effect disrupting the charge across the heart wall/muscles). See the specific “Dangers of Butane" section below.

There exsists some theories that butane may actually act as a neuroprotective agent.[1]


Butane is rapidly absorbed by the body, being lipid soluble, and is usually 'trapped' in fat cells through out the body, leading to a slow release into the blood stream over time. This can lead to a larger dose or greater exposure time than anticipated, making it far more difficult to measure or assess dose or exposure.

In cases of presented butane related fatalities, the highest concentrations of butane have been found deposited in fat, the liver, brain, kidney, spleen, blood and kidneys.

Other than its asphyxant properties of displacing oxygen, it has no specific action of cell toxicity.

Combinations with Butane

Categories: Alkane, Inhalants

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