Inhalant abuse growing among young people

James "Bald Head" Dark
March 18, 2008
March 20
March 20, 2008

Dear Editor,

Inhalant use (the deliberate inhaling of volatile substances to induce a mind-altering effect) is a common and dangerous problem, especially among young people. Inhalants are liquids, sprays and gases that people sniff or huff to get high.

National Inhalant Prevention Coalition surveys show that one in five students in America has used an inhalant to get high by the time he or she reaches the eighth grade.

Parents don’t realize that inhalants are cheap, legal and accessible products. Inhalants are just as popular, or in many cases more popular than marijuana. Even fewer parents know the deadly effects the poisons in these products have on the body and brain when they are inhaled or “huffed.”

The Bayou Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, a United Way Agency, and the Lafourche Prevention Partnership will join with over 2,000 organizations in observance of the 16th annual National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week (NIPAW) through March 23rd.

NIPAW is a community mobilization campaign that has proven to be a highly effective tool for fighting inhalant use.

Inhalant use starts as early as elementary school and is considered a gateway to further substance abuse. It is never too early to teach children about the dangers of inhalants. Too often, parents remain ignorant of inhalant use or don’t educate their children until it’s too late. Inhalants are not drugs; they are poisons and should be discussed as such.

Signs of inhalant abuse include: unusual paint or chemical stains on clothing or body (especially face and hands); presence of paint- or chemical-soaked rags; plastic or paper bags, socks or clothing or latex balloons; spots, sores or a rash around the mouth or nose; chemical breath odor; nausea, loss of appetite or drooling; and unexplained abusable products hidden, kept nearby or in the possession of the suspected user.

Nearly all abused products produce effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down bodily functions. “Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome” can occur any time a person uses an inhalant.

Other effects include damage to the heart, kidneys, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs.

Results similar to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome also may occur when inhalants are used during pregnancy. Users can become physically and psychologically addicted to inhalants and suffer serious withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment facilities for inhalant users are rare and difficult to locate. Users have a high relapse rate, and typically require 30 to 40 days or more for detoxification.

Preventing inhalant abuse if far easier than trying to treat the addiction. Talking with your child is more powerful than any other prevention technique. Start talking now! Use this NIPAW campaign as a starting point to educate yourself and your children about all the dangers of drug abuse.

For more information on drug abuse prevention, contact The Bayou Council at (985) 446-0643 or (800) 618-9444.

Jackie Myers, LPP, BCOA

Executive Director

Kevin P. Carpenter, LPP,

Program Specialist,

The Bayou Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse