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What is Inhalant Abuse?

When we think of drugs, most of us think of marijuana, heroin and crack cocaine. But some of the most lethal drugs are simpler and easier to obtain.

We can find them in the drawers of our desks, stashed in our cabinets, and lined up on our grocery store shelves. Things like paint, magic markers, white out, lighter fluid, hair sprays, vegetable cooking sprays and air fresheners. Things that are cheap and easy to obtain, and at the same time, when inhaled can prove fatal.

These and close to 1,000 other everyday household products are being abused by our kids to get a quick high. They inhale them through their nose (sniffing) or mouth (huffing). Most kids who try these products think they are harmless. They do not know the facts.

The reality is that hundreds of children each year die from inhalant use--sometimes on their first try. Nonetheless, many parents and educators remain ignorant of this "silent epidemic."

Inhalants are the third most abused substances among 12 to 14-year-olds in the United States, coming in right behind alcohol and tobacco. And as many as one in five students in the United States has tried inhalants by the time they reach the seventh grade.

Yet while many kids admit to sniffing toxic items, they do not consider this to be "inhalant abuse." That is because these products are easily available, free or inexpensive, legal and give a pleasurable affect by depressing the central nervous system.

Some of the symptoms of inhalant abuse include:

  • red or runny eyes and/or nose
  • spots and/or sores around the mouth
  • unusual breath odor
  • drunk, dazed or dizzy appearance
  • correction fluid on fingernails
  • sitting with a pen or marker near the nose
  • constantly smelling shirt sleeves
  • nausea and/or loss of appetite
  • paint or stain marks on clothing or on skin

Inhalants are dangerous chemicals that are not intended for human consumption, and they do irreversible damage to the human body when misused.

People who abuse inhalants on a regular basis and do not die put themselves at risk for permanent and severe brain damage. Inhalant vapors react with fatty tissues in the brain, literally dissolving them. Therefore, chronic inhalant abusers may permanently lose the ability to perform everyday tasks like walking, talking and thinking.

That's why we must warn our kids about the dangers of inhalants, and make sure that they know enough not to try them.