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The Dangers of Inhalants

One of the most popular - and deadly - substances used by young teens today is inhalants. These are chemical vapors found in a variety of common household products such as paint thinner and paints, correction fluids, bleach, rubber cement and glues, nail polish thinner, whipping cream aerosols, deodorant, fabric protector, and hair sprays.

Teens use inhalants by sniffing fumes from containers, spraying the substances inside of a paper or plastic bag then inhaling the fumes, or using an inhalant soaked rag. Inhalants can produce mind-altering and pleasurable effects such as stimulation and decreased inhibition, but they can also produce a number of unwanted side effects. Inhalants work much like anesthetics on the brain, which means they slow down the body's systems, including respiration. They can interfere with the heart's rhythm and cause heart failure, resulting in death. Less severe, but irreversible hazards of chronic exposure to inhalants are brain damage, nerve damage, hearing loss, bone marrow damage, and damage to heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

Why do teens use inhalants to get high? Mostly because they are readily available and inexpensive. Teens also use inhalants because it's easy to get away with it, since many parents are either unaware of the dangers of inhalants or unaware that their child is abusing these substances.

Parents should be aware of the signs that a teen is using inhalants. These include:

  • Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
  • Sores or burns around mouth area
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Red, runny, glazed eyes or runny nose
  • Slurred speech
  • Acting disoriented, dizzy, or drunk
Many teens are unaware of the dangers of inhalant use. Parents can protect their children by talking to them and openly discussing these dangers.