Inhalant Abuse: Your Child and Drugs
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.
Read the information below
to learn more about inhalants so that you can talk with your
child about them. Educating young people about their dangers
is an important step in preventing inhalant abuse. This
brochure also describes the signs and symptoms of inhalant
abuse. If you suspect your child is abusing inhalants, it is
important to get help and, if necessary, treatment right away.
Common inhalants and how they are used
Hair spray. Gasoline. Spray
paint. Glue. Typewriter correction fluid. You probably have at
least one of these products in your home. These are just a few
of the inhalants that are poisonous when children:
There are three general
types of inhalants: solvents, gases, and nitrites.
Inhalant abuse is on the rise
Inhalant abuse is a growing
problem - one that deserves parents' attention. While the use
of some drugs is declining, inhalant abuse is on the rise
among children and teens. In the past decade it has nearly
doubled. Adolescents 12 to 14 years of age are most likely to
abuse inhalants, and almost 20% of eighth-graders have tried
some form of them. Most young people who ever try inhalants do
so before their second year of high school.
A household guide to inhalants
Here is a list of only a few
of the common household products that are dangerous when
Why do children abuse inhalants?
There are many reasons why
inhalants appeal to children. They are cheap, easy to get, and
easy to hide. For a few dollars, a can of butane offers a
quick high. Or a child can sit in class and secretly sniff
correction fluid. Because inhalants are legal, kids can easily
make excuses if they are caught with them.
Another appeal of inhalants
is the social part of using them. Kids enjoy abusing inhalants
with other kids, and most inhalant abuse is thought to be done
Reasons why children use inhalants
Signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse
Information for you and your child
are the effects of inhalants?
One thing that all inhalants
have in common is that they contain chemicals that were never
meant for people to consume. So why would anyone breathe toxic
chemicals on purpose? Just like the users of other drugs,
inhalant abusers try to get "high" from the
The effects of inhalants
usually last only a few minutes, unless users inhale
repeatedly. At first, inhalants have a stimulating effect.
Then if the users keep inhaling, they may feel dazed, dizzy,
and have trouble walking. Sometimes users get aggressive or
think they see things that are not there. Stronger chemicals
or repeated inhaling can cause people to pass out. A user can
also die suddenly from using inhalants.
When someone uses an
inhalant, large amounts of toxic chemicals enter the lungs and
pass from the bloodstream into the brain. There they damage
and kill brain cells. The amount of fumes a young person
inhales greatly exceeds what is considered safe even in a
workplace setting. It takes at least 2 weeks for the body to
get rid of some of the chemicals in inhalants. Inhalants exit
the body mainly through exhaling, which is why an inhalant
abuser's breath often smells like chemicals. Inhalants also
pass out of the body through urine.
effects of inhalants are:
inhalants can cause more serious damage, such as:
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
Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse reports the following
ways that inhalants can kill:
Another very real danger of
inhalants is that they often lead young people to try other
drugs whose effects are even more intense and last longer.
Prevention of inhalant abuse
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.
Help prevent your child from turning to inhalants and other drugs by taking these steps:
Set a good example at
home. As a parent,
you are the best role model for your child. Parents who use
drugs also place their children at higher risk for drug use.
Build self-esteem and
your child often. Encourage your son or daughter to set goals
and make decisions to achieve them. With each success and your
constant support, your child will become more confident in
what he or she can do. Children with self-confidence feel good
about themselves without needing drugs.
Help your child develop
Encourage your child to read, have hobbies, play sports, or
join clubs. These activities can keep your son or daughter
from using drugs out of boredom or from having too much free
time. Young people will find that they can have a lot of fun
and feel good without drugs. Take an active interest in your
child's interests and in his or her friends.
Help your child resist
peer pressure. Being
independent and self-confident can help your child resist
pressure from friends to abuse inhalants. To foster
independence, show confidence in your child's ability to make
his or her own decisions. Encourage your child to make his or
her own judgments, no matter what friends or others say or do.
Talk openly and often.
Talk about things that are important to and relevant in your
child's life. This includes discussing drugs and how some kids
might use them to be accepted by their peers. Educating your
pre-teen or teen about the dangers of drugs, including
inhalant abuse, works best through talking rather than
Treatment of inhalant abuse
When children are abusing
inhalants, many times their parents do not find out until the
abuse has already become a habit. Chronic inhalant abusers are
hardest to treat because they often have many serious personal
and social problems. They also have difficulty staying off
inhalants and have very high rates of relapse. All of these
reasons can keep chronic inhalant abusers from benefiting from
many drug abuse treatment programs.
Toxic chemicals from
inhalants stay in the body for weeks. Because of this, when
chronic abusers stop using inhalants they may feel the effects
of withdrawal for weeks. Withdrawal is the body's way of
getting over its physical addiction to inhalants. During
withdrawal from inhalants, a person may have:
Treatment for inhalant
abusers is usually long-term, sometimes as long as 2 years. It
must address the many social problems most inhalant abusers
have and involves:
Inhalant abuse is a
difficult form of substance abuse to treat. It is best to
recognize and start treatment before the problem becomes a
habit. Parents and educators need to be able to recognize the
signs of inhalant abuse, especially because most abusers do
not seek treatment on their own.
Parents also play the most
important role in helping their children to resist abusing
inhalants in the first place. The most effective prevention of
inhalant abuse is through the education of parents, teachers,
and school-aged children.