When you think of young people using drugs, alcohol and marijuana probably come to mind first. Some
young people do use those drugs, but each year more are abusing another group of
substances that you may know little about. These are called inhalants. The abuse
of inhalants is also called solvent abuse, huffing, sniffing, glue sniffing, or
volatile substance abuse.
There are over 1,000 inhalants - common products most often found in the
home, office, and classroom. These products are legal because they have a useful
purpose. They are also safe when used for that purpose. But when young people
misuse them by breathing them into their lungs, inhalants are poison. Over time,
the abuse of inhalants can cause severe permanent damage to the body, especially
the brain. The scariest thing about inhalants is that your child could die from
using them only once.
No one can predict how much of an inhalant will kill. A young person can use
a certain amount one time and seem fine, but his or her next use could be fatal.
The Texas Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse reports the following ways
that inhalants can kill:
- Asphyxia - Solvent gases can cause a person to stop breathing
from a lack of oxygen.
- Choking - Users can choke on their own vomit.
- Suffocation - This is more common among users who inhale from
- Injuries - Inhalants can cause people to become careless or
aggressive. This often leads to behaviors that can injure or kill, such as
operating a motor vehicle dangerously or jumping from great heights. Teens
also can get burned or even be killed if someone lights a cigarette while
they are huffing butane, gasoline, or some other flammable substance.
- Suicides - Coming down from an inhalant high causes some
people to feel depressed, which may lead them to take their own lives.
- Cardiac arrest - Chemicals from inhalants can make the heart beat very fast and irregularly, then suddenly stop
breathing. This is called cardiac arrest. One reason why this might happen is that inhalants somehow make
the heart extra-sensitive to adrenaline. (Adrenaline is a hormone that the
body produces, usually in response to fear, excitement, or surprise.) A
sudden rush of adrenaline combined with inhalants can make the heart stop
This "Sudden Sniffing Death," as it is called, is responsible for
more than half of all deaths due to inhalant abuse.
National surveys indicate that over 12 1/2 million Americans have
abused inhalants at least once in their lives.
Here is a list of only a few of the common household products that are
dangerous when inhaled:
- Cooking spray
- Typewriter correction fluid
- Fabric protectors
- Felt-tip markers
- Furniture polish and wax
- Oven cleaners
- Air fresheners
- Spray deodorants
- Hair sprays
- Nail polish removers
- Pressurized aerosol sprays
- Glues and adhesives
- Paints and paint thinners
- Refrigerants (freon)
- Rust removers
- Spray paints
Although some states have laws to try and deal with inhalant abuse, such laws are not always easy to enforce. Since inhalants are
legal and kids can get them from so many different ways, it is not possible to
make inhalants entirely off-limits. The best way to fight inhalant abuse is to
educate your child about
how harmful these products are. Explain how they can cause both short- and
long-term health problems, further drug abuse, and death. It is important to
start talking with children at a young age, because inhalant abuse often starts
as young as 8 or 9 years old. Parents and teachers should also be able to
recognize the warning signs of inhalant abuse.
(American Academy of Pediatrics-"Inhalant Abuse: Your Child and Drugs)