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Inhalant abuse, a disturbing trend with young people

April 7, 2013 12:40 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

A California family lost their 13-year-old daughter to huffing — unfortunately, this scenario is not as uncommon as you may think.

Huffing is the act of sniffing chemicals (often sprayed into a bag) and inhaled. This may cause a reaction is similar to alcohol intoxication — drowsiness, lightheadedness, and a lack of inhibition.

More serious consequences can include permanent damage to the brain and other organs or even death. Sudden cardiac death from fatal cardiac arrhythmias has been reported even in teen inhalant abusers. Death from huffing can occur upon the first time of use or after prolonged inhalant abuse. Chronic use can result in permanent damage to the user’s heart, liver, kidney, lungs, or brain.

Where are they getting these inhalants? You’d be surprised — a youth may look no further than their kitchen cabinet, garage, or bathroom cabinet. Huffers use paint thinner and other solvents, gasoline, felt tip markers, aerosol sprays, or even computer dusting spray — which is the substance that killed 13-year-old Aria Doherty in March.

Chronic inhalant abuse may result in serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the user’s heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Brain damage may result in personality changes, diminished cognitive functioning, memory impairment, and slurred speech. Further, inhalant users usually begin smoking, using alcohol, and using other drugs at younger ages and display a higher lifetime prevalence of substance-use disorders than those who do not use inhalants.

Huffing is more popular among younger tweens and teens. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were 793,000 persons aged 12 or older who had used inhalants for the first time within the past 12 months; 68.4 percent were under the age of 18. In fact, inhalants — particularly volatile solvents, gases, and aerosols — are often the easiest and first options for abuse among young children who use drugs.

Katherine Kasmir, Straight Up’s Program Director, says “There are just too many ways out there for kids to hurt themselves. We need to work together to bring awareness and to talk to our kids, teachers and peers.”

Find out more and get resources about how to talk about it to your teen here: