The Risk of Death from Inhalants

Young teens have been getting high from inhalants for some time now, and while the trend is still gaining in popularity, most teens (and their parents) do not know how dangerous it really is.

Inhalants like aerosol spray cans, markers, shoe polish, glue, cooking spray, and air conditioning refrigerant can be used to produce a drug-like high. Kids inhale these things, sometimes covering their faces with plastic bags or rags to keep the fumes in. The inhaling or huffing can cause hallucinations, slurred speech, loss of muscle control, the feeling of euphoria, and other effects similar to drugs.

Even though the effects are the same, many young people do not compare huffing to doing drugs. The thing that makes this type of substance abuse so dangerous is that many people can’t see the harm in it. The substances are legal and usually inexpensive, which makes them readily available. However, once they experiment with it a few times, teens can become physically and psychologically addicted.

Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome

Worse yet, some kids die suddenly from inhaling these substances. This can happen even the first time a teen experiments with inhaling. It is called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, and it happens most often because of stress on the heart. There is no warning before death occurs, and it doesn’t matter if a person has huffed many times before, or if it is their first time.

Education for Parents and Kids

It is important to create better awareness about risky trends like this one among young people. Parents are the ones that first need to get a handle on what teens and pre-teens are doing so they can watch for warning signs and talk to their kids about the risks. Parents should watch out for the glassy eyes, the change in behavior, or even the physical effects like inflammation of the throat. They may also find things like empty aerosol cans, discolored rags or clothes, or missing household substances.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released information last week about huffing among children. Their data shows that 12 year old children are more likely to get high from inhalants than to use cigarettes or marijuana. SAMHSA’s studies also show that nearly 7% of 12 year olds have used inhalants to get high.

There are people working across the country to put more programs in place to educate parents, teens, and pre-teens about the risks of huffing. Parents need to be taught that kids are doing this, and how to watch for warning signs. Kids need to learn that this is nothing to mess around with and even though it may seem legal and ok, huffing is really dangerous and can result in addiction or death.

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