Children have been warned to “just say no to drugs” and told the dangers of illegal substance abuse, but more kids are getting high by huffing legal substances than by marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogens combined. And they are often doing right in their own homes.
The aerosol cleaner used to clean your computer, hairspray, paint solvents, gasoline, and that old standby, glue, can all be inhaled (huffed) to get a high. Kids have been taking advantage of this method of getting high for generations because it’s accessible, the price is right, and it is fairly easy to avoid arousing suspicion. Yet, many are still unaware of the serious health risks.
A report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveals that almost seven percent of 12 year-olds report sniffing inhalants. In contrast, only 1.4 percent admit using marijuana, 0.7 percent hallucinogens, and 0.1 percent cocaine.
The primary age group of inhalant abusers is 12 – 17. These adolescents often live by the “it’ll never happen to me” theory and greatly underestimate the dangers of huffing. Because the high is short-lived, abusers may engage in repeated huffing over a span of several hours at a time.
Inhalants give a brief feeling of pleasure or euphoria similar to alcohol intoxication, and some may contain anesthetic agents. It is particularly attractive to children because it is an inexpensive high with easy access.
There are likely hundreds of products in your home right now that can be used for huffing, including solvents, aerosols, gases, and nitrates. Additional information and specifics about products and ingredients used for huffing may be found at the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
Effects of huffing include dizziness, confusion, lack of coordination, slurred speech, delusions, headache, and nausea. The practice can also cause brain impairment and cardiac arrest. Damage to the central nervous system, brain, liver, or kidneys can be irreversible. Death can occur quickly, and even upon the first instance of huffing.
Huffing is highly addictive and adults who use inhalants generally initiated usage during adolescence. Because of the highly addictive nature of huffing, substance abuse counseling may be required.
Signs of huffing in adolescents are sometimes difficult to spot. Hidden containers; chemical odors on breath and clothing; paint or other stains on clothing, hands, or face; loss of appetite; weight loss; weakness; disorientation; irritability; and depression are common.
Children may be under the misguided impression that because a product is used around the house that it is safe. It’s never too early to teach children about the dangers of substance abuse, and any such discussions should include the very real pitfalls of huffing. The consequences of ignorance can be fatal.