With prescription drug abuse and the misuse of cough and cold medicines, parents of teens know they must safeguard the contents of their medicine cabinets. But what many moms and dads may find surprising is that another common practice called “huffing” is just as dangerous and also involves household substances within arm’s reach.
Huffing involves breathing in the fumes from common cleaners and other household items such as glue and nail polish remover in the hopes of getting high. And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 20 percent of adolescents admit to this perilous practice.
The outcome of misusing such household products can not only be hazardous but deadly. Derek Hendrickson of Butte, Montana’s Community, Counseling and Correctional Services says that purposely inhaling potent vapors wreaks havoc on the body’s nervous system, resulting in loss of consciousness, dead brain cells, kidney failure, loss of eyesight and hearing. Sadly, many teens are not aware of such consequences until it’s too late.
Abusing inhalants leaves users with a short period of euphoria when oxygen flowing into the brain ceases. Physically, a person who breathes in inhalants looks similar to someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He or she may seem confused, look out of it or act tired. Parents who suspect their children might be using such substances should also look for glassy eyes, a chemical smell on their children’s breath and rashes or wounds that appear around the mouth and nose area. Additionally, the chemicals can cause behavioral changes such as a loss of interest in school, inability to concentrate and poor grades.
Parents need to discuss the dangers of inhalants with their children. With extended use inhalants can cause heart attacks and, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “sudden sniffing death syndrome.” Many of the addicted individuals that Hendrickson works with say they started their habit when they were young.
One reason why teens often abuse household products is simply because of the ease of access and availability, says Hendrickson. Therefore, parents may be able to deter some of this behavior by locking up commonly abused substances, switching to natural cleaners or by having open and honest conversations with their kids about the risks of inhalant abuse.