Cheap, legal, and easily accessible, inhalants represent a serious threat in every home. Users breathe in the chemical vapors of anything from gasoline to felt markers to keyboard cleaners for a quick high that leaves them dizzy and momentarily euphoric—the initial effects of depriving the brain and body of oxygen.
Users cross every age group, and abuse is particularly prevalent among tweens and young teens. According to health officials, “huffing” is the leading form of substance abuse among 12-year-olds, besting marijuana by a significant margin.
Harvey Weiss, founder and director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC), outlines three factors that make inhalant abuse so prominent. “One is ease of access. Two is perception of safety, where kids figure, ‘If these things are floating around my house, how dangerous can they be?’ And three is that inhalant abuse is rarely discussed with children. Parents need to address inhalants in those same conversations they have about drugs and alcohol.”
What to do
A parent who catches a “huffer” in the act may have a furious and panicked response, but Weiss warns strongly against alarming the user since every inhalant can cause Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. “When substances are inhaled, the heart starts to beat irregularly,” Weiss explains. “Any sudden fright or alarm leads to a rush of adrenaline which can then cause the heart to fail.” British surveys indicate that of those children known to have died from inhalants, 30 percent were first-time users.
If you suspect someone of using, get informed. You can read up at the NICP
and the National Institute on Drug Abuse
; contact a local Poison Control Center
, and speak with the school nurse. When you talk to the suspected user, speak in terms he or she will understand — huffing, sniffing, dusting—since the word “inhalants” may be as unknown to them as the very real dangers.
The inhalants can affect nearly every organ of the body. They can cause brain cell death, memory problems, personality changes, coordination issues, and even sight problems and deafness. They are also known to cause lung, liver and kidney damage. They can cause muscle wasting and even leukemia.
© MSN Healthy Living