Teenagers and young adults are turning to common, everyday household products in order to get high. Kids are under the assumption that there are no dangers associated with sniffing or “huffing” these products that they can easily find throughout their home. Unfortunately, the consequences of using inhalants, as they are called, can be extremely dangerous and sometimes deadly.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America reports that over 4.7 million teens have used inhalants to get high. Inhalant use is most common among young teenagers in middle school and junior high because they usually have not yet been introduced to illegal street drugs such as cocaine or heroin, but they are still interested in experimenting with other drugs in order to attain the high that they hear about from friends. Teens are finding ways to get high off of thousands of different products found in their garage, medicine cabinet, kitchen, office, or basement. Some of these products include paint, paint thinners, cleaning products, nail polish remover, gasoline, fuel, deodorant, air fresheners, and cooking sprays. Typically the user will inhale the fumes straight from the container or if it is an aerosol product, they will insert the sprayer directly into their nose or mouth. Another common technique used is called “huffing”, where a towel or highly absorbent piece of fabric is immersed into the inhalant and then held over the mouth where the fumes can be breathed in. “Bagging” refers to the process of spraying the product into a plastic or paper bag and inhaling from there.
Tolune, acetone, and trichloroethane are the main solvents in many of these household products. The main job of solvents is to keep the other ingredients that make up the product dissolved and in gaseous form. When a person inhales a product into the lungs, these solvents are rapidly absorbed into their bloodstream and ultimately lead to disruptions of the electrical signals between neurons. When certain signals are changed or interrupted, a feeling of euphoria is experienced, or the “high” as it is more commonly known as. This feeling is sometimes compared to instantly becoming incredibly drunk. Sometimes, however, the cardiac signals are disrupted which causes the heart to stop immediately and will lead to death. Inhalants deprive the body and lungs of the oxygen needed to survive, which may lead to asphyxiation. In other instances, people who use inhalants become so sick that they vomit, pass out and then proceed to choke to death on their own vomit.
It is nearly impossible to figure out how many teenagers and young adults die each year from inhalant use. Many of the deaths associated with inhalants are from car crashes or drownings that occurred while an individual was under the influence of these substances.
Here are some tips to help parents talk to their children about the dangers of inhaling common household products:
1) Make sure to educate and talk to your children early, preferably before they enter middle school. Let them know about the dangers associated with different products that they may find around the house, but also make sure that you are not too specific. You do not want to give them any ideas or tips on how to huff in case they are contemplating it.
2) Read labels and instructions on proper use to your children, especially if they are involved in household chores where they will be using these products. Explain how our bodies need oxygen to survive and that fumes can take away this oxygen, making them very sick.
3) Make sure that you are non-judgmental when asking your children questions about what they know about inhalants. Do not lecture them. You want them to feel comfortable with approaching you with any questions or concerns they may have in the future.