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All drugs are essentially Poisons.  Some people, especially kids, get this mixed up and think that all poisons are essentially drugs.  Nowhere is this a more damaging misconception than with inhalants.


By Tony Bylsma 

Huffing is a term meaning the intentional inhaling of a chemical, often some household product, to achieve an intoxication effect. These chemicals can be volatile solvents, aerosols, nitrites and various gases. Inhalants

* Volatile solvents include paint thinners and removers, dry-cleaning fluids, degreasers, gasoline, glues, correction fluids, and felt-tip marker fluids.

* Aerosols include spray paints, deodorant and hair sprays, vegetable oil sprays for cooking, and fabric protector sprays.

* Nitrites are used primarily to enhance sex. Room odorizers contain one form of nitrite. Another form, amyl nitrite, is sometimes prescribed for heart pain. Illegal samples of amyl nitrite are called "poppers" or "snappers."

* Gases include ether, chloroform, halothane, and nitrous oxide ("laughing gas"). Butane lighters, propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers, and refrigerants contain gases that can be inhaled.

Who is huffing?
According to the most recent national survey from National Families in Action, Unlike most drugs of abuse, younger adolescents are the ones most likely to use inhalants. This is likely due to the easy accessibility and relative low costs involved.

Percentage of students reporting past year inhalant use, 1996–2002

                         1996    1997    1998     1999     2000     2001    2002
8th graders         12.2     11.8      11.1      10.3      9.4       9.1      7.7
10th graders         9.5      8.7       8.0        7.2      7.3        6.6       5.8
12th graders         7.6      6.7       6.2        5.6      5.9        4.5       4.5
Source: Monitoring the Future Study.
Damage to Body Caused by Inhalants

Acoustic nerve and muscle
Destruction of cells that relay sound to the brain may cause deafness.

The oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood can be inhibited.

Bone marrow
Components containing benzene have been shown to cause leukemia.

Damage is also caused to the cerebral cortex and the cerebellum, resulting in personality changes, memory impairment, hallucinations, loss of coordination, and slurred speech.

Sudden sniffing death (SSD) syndrome,* an unexpected disturbance in the heart's rhythm, may cause fatal cardiac arrhythmias (heart failure).

The kidney's ability to control the amount of acid in the blood may be impaired. Kidney stones may develop after use is terminated.

Gathering of fatty tissue may cause liver damage.

Damaged lungs and impaired breathing occurs with repeated use.

Chronic use can lead to muscle wasting and reduced muscle tone and strength.

Peripheral nervous system
Damage to the nerves may result in numbness, tingling, and paralysis.

A severe rash around the nose and mouth, referred to as "glue sniffer's rash," may result.

*SSD syndrome may result when a user deeply inhales a chemical for the effect of intoxication. This causes a decrease in available oxygen in the body. If the user becomes startled or engages in sudden physical activity, an increased flow of adrenaline from the brain to the heart induces cardiac arrest and death occurs within minutes.
Source: National Inhalant Prevention Coalition.

"Even a single session of repeated inhalant abuse can disrupt heart rhythms and cause death from cardiac arrest or lower oxygen levels enough to cause suffocation," notes Alan Leshner, PhD, former director of NIDA.

"Regular abuse of these substances can result in serious harm to vital organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver."

In classrooms and other places where we speak to children about drugs there is an increasing number who ask about inhalants. The questions are of the kind of specific nature that leads us to believe that the interest is not all academic.

With one out of five eighth graders having at least experimented with inhalants, it imperative that we act and act now to inform them of the real dangers involved.

What can we do about the problem?
The first thing is to abandon any idea that some kids are immune. This is a phenomenon that can occur in any neighborhood, any income level and any ethnicity.
These products are already in the garage, under the sink and in the office.  Kids find these chemicals there and don't feel that there can be that much harm in "just playing around" with it a time or two. But the effects can be addictive and playing around can lead to a serious problem in very short order.

So we MUST see to it that every child is aware of the dangers of poisonous chemicals and exactly which chemicals are to be avoided. We can label the harmful ones with a distinctive mark that cannot be missed. Any poisons in the home without a label can easily be labeled by parents

Finally, children have to be made aware.
Kids don't walk out in front of a speeding truck out of curiosity, why?
Because they truly understand that the effects are dangerous, debilitating and painful. If they have that solid an understanding about the damage of huffing they'll avoid it too.

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