What Every Parent Needs to Know About Inhalant Abuse

What is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abuse is increasing steadily in the United States, especially among teenagers. Many teenagers begin to sniff or huff substances that are found easily in their own homes or nearby stores. In many cases, the intoxicative substances are located in the teenager’s room with a parent having no awareness that it a dangerous chemical. Parents need to learn about how inhalants are used along with the signs of misuse to prevent addiction from occurring in their children. The gases and vapors from several substances are what people are seeking to feel a high.

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Dangerous Symptoms from Inhaling

Inhalants used for intoxication are in a variety of forms such as liquids and solids. In most cases, the substance emits a strong odor just by opening the lid. Pressurized containers of chemicals are also a source of vapors that often requires bagging the item before placing it over the nose or mouth to inhale. Any form of inhaling without sufficient ventilation is extremely dangerous, leading to early symptoms of nausea or vomiting before progressing to hallucinations or euphoria. Of course, an individual trying to drive a vehicle after inhaling is at a higher risk of having an accident.

Inhalants are Everyday Items

Teenagers inhaling chemicals on a regular basis can develop brain damage, cardiac arrest or pneumonia. Most parents are aware of the signs of hard drug use such as looking for capsules, needles and other paraphernalia. However, they often are not watching everyday items such as beauty products and household cleansers to see if a child is misusing the substances and carrying out inhalant abuse. Chemicals such as solvents in nail polish, glue and paint create a strong vapor odor that teenagers can sniff to become high. The aerosol gases emitted from cans of hair spray, whipped cream and cooking oils is sniffed primarily by bagging the containers.

Preventing Huffing at Home

Most items used during inhalant abuse are not locked up in a home, leading to easy access by unsupervised teenagers. Family homes typically contain a large number of inhalants that parents would not miss if the substances were removed. For parents concerned about the possibility of inhalant abuse in their homes, buying nontoxic products is a good option. When there are products that contain common huffing or sniffing chemicals in a home, placing the substances in a locked cabinet is an excellent plan. It is important to remember that teenagers who want to sniff or puff will find chemicals at a friend’s home or at a shopping mall.

Teenagers Learn from Media

Teenagers and younger children may learn about sniffing and huffing from watching entertainment media such as music videos, television or movies. Unfortunately, even the books in a high school’s library may have descriptions of items with gases that will create a feeling of euphoria. Someone who becomes addicted to the high from inhaled vapors or gases may search for containers in trash cans or dumpsters in their neighborhoods. Because of new laws in many geographic regions, retail establishments may not sell particular items such as glue to minors to prevent intoxicative inhalation and inhalant abuse.

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Contact a Family Physician

Parents concerned that a child is inhaling intoxicating chemicals should contact their family physician or a local hospital to learn about drug rehabilitation programs. There are programs especially designed for teenagers involved in bagging, huffing and sniffing at outpatient clinics. In addition there are intensive round-the-clock rehabilitation centers for individuals with a serious addiction to inhaling gases or fumes. When a minor is involved in inhalant abuse, parents are a part of the rehabilitation process with group therapy from psychiatrists and counselors.

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