Ideally, adolescence is a time for young people to explore, learn, grow and experiment. This is the natural progress of developing into adulthood. However, experimentation can go too far if it involves substance abuse. We’re talking about inhalant abuse in teens – also known as “huffing.”
Toxic chemicals found in glue, gasoline, nail polish, and paint are commonly inhaled or “huffed” and can be extremely harmful to teens. Teens use easily accessible household items to get an instant “high.” When used often, they can cause severe physical and mental damage – in some cases, irreparable damage or even death.
Teen inhalant abuse is a real concern, so we’ve curated these facts, tips, and suggestions to educate parents and guardians about this growing epidemic among teens.
What are Inhalants?
Inhalants are typically easy-to-find household items that are then inhaled to give the user a temporary rush or elevated feeling. This can be done either by breathing in gasses or inhaling liquids, such as spray paint. Teens sometimes refer to inhalants as whippets, poppers, snappers, rush, bolt, or bullet. Examples of common household products used for inhalation include: Glue, paint thinner, gasoline, dry cleaning fluid, felt-tip markers, deodorant, hair spray, and whipped cream dispensers (whippet).
What are the Effects of Inhalants on Teens?
Inhalants can produce a quick high, followed by feelings of sleepiness, dizziness, and confusion. Long-term users have also been known to experience headaches, nosebleeds, and even the loss of their sense of smell. Inhalant use increases the risk of serious injury or death, as it lowers oxygen levels in the brain and could cause serious brain damage. Adverse effects may also include cardiac arrest, liver or kidney damage, brain damage, weight loss, and irregularities in heartbeat. In some instances, inhaling can cause death.
How do Teens Use Inhalants?
Teens can inhale them from a bag (known as bagging) directly from the container (called sniffing) or by holding an inhalant-soaked cloth to their mouth and breathing in (called huffing).
Statistics on Inhalant Use in Teens
A 2014 study found that approximately 30 of the 54 deaths attributed to volatile substances were due to difluoroethane, a gas found in products that clear out dust from computers and keyboards.
A report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health cited that about 1.2 million individuals aged 12 or older used inhalants in the past year. They’re cheap and so are sold legally for those with access to a store, making them an attractive option to illegal drugs for adolescents and vulnerable populations.
An estimated 4.8% of 8th graders in the US reported using inhalants in the past year. Meanwhile, 2.0% of 10th graders and 1.8% of 12th graders also reported being inhalant users in the past year.
What to Look for if a Teen is Using Inhalants
When trying to learn if your teen is using, ask yourself these questions: Are large quantities of household products missing or purchased? Have you noticed toxic or hazardous substances in your teen’s room? Do you have any of these symptoms with your child: rashes, sore throats, chemical smells on breath? There are other signs that your child may be abusing substances, such as changes in social life, changes in grades, health problems, weight loss, or mood swings.
Tips to Prevent Inhalant Abuse
Opening up an honest conversation about substance abuse and inhaling is a great place to start. Teach teens to be careful, and emphasize to them that these substances can kill if abused. Continuously monitor inhalants in your home and be mindful of how quickly they’re being used up or discarded. There are many potential dangers associated with the misuse or abuse of inhalants, so it’s important to educate yourself with information that will help protect you and those around you from potential harm.
Your teenager could be at risk of abuse if they are huffing. If you suspect that they are, then you must act quickly before the situation escalates. Huffing can lead to long-term addiction into adulthood and physical dependence just like illicit drugs. If you find out that your child needs help for inhalant abuse, get them medical attention immediately. If their consciousness becomes impaired or their lives are in peril, call 911.