Parents vigilant about educating their child about drugs and alcohol could inadvertently be supplying “drugs” powerful enough to kill the first time they are used.
Surveys conducted in the US and Canada reveal that huffing (or inhalant use) is becoming one of the most widespread problems in North America and may be as popular as marijuana.
The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition says youth are quickly discovering that common household products are inexpensive to obtain, easy to hide, and the easiest way to get high. More than one million people used inhalants to get high last year and it is believed that one in five students have experimented with inhalants by the time they reach grade eight.
In Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society has stated publicly that it is “extremely concerned with the practice of inhalant abuse among children and adolescents,” and has recommended the dangers associated with its use be better publicized and included in substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.
Interestingly, it is not just troubled teens that become users. A study of teens aged 12 and 13-year-olds conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found inhalants to be the most reported class of illicit drugs used in the past year.
Inhalant Abuse Defined
Also known as huffing, solvent abuse, sniffing, bagging, and glue sniffing, teen inhalant abuse is the intentional inhalation of gas or vapours for the purpose of achieving a brief period of euphoria.
Inhalants are common products that can be deadly when misused. They include more than 1,000 products including correction fluid, air-conditioning refrigerant, felt tip markers, spray paint, hairspray, pressurized air, air freshener, butane, glue, shoe polish, gasoline, contact cement, and cooking spray.
Effects on the Body
Inhalants are depressants that slow down the body’s functions and produce an effect similar to that felt while under anesthesia. Users may experience slight stimulation, feelings of lessened inhibition, distorted perceptions, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, and a loss of consciousness.
Users can also suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome – which means a user can die the first or 100th time they use an inhalant. Other effects include damage to the brain, kidneys, heart, liver, bone marrow, and other organs.
Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting substances with withdrawal symptoms that may include hallucinations, nausea, excessive sweating, hand tremors, muscle cramps, headaches, chills and delirium tremors.
Advice to Parents
Read labels and ensure all poisonous, flammable, or volatile substances are clearly marked with a cautionary message. Store potentially poisonous or intoxicating products in a locked cabinet if necessary.
Talk to your child about inhalants before they become a problem. Explain that inhalants are not a drug, but are a dangerous poison that could cause sudden death.
Never put a volatile substance in an unlabeled container, even temporarily.
Explain the dangers associated with inhalants and supervise their legitimate use, such as the application of nail polish. Explain that the fumes from nail polish shouldn’t be inhaled and that polish should be applied in a well-ventilated room away from flames.
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