Too Many Kids Are Wasting Their Breath on Inhalants (page 2)
What do nail polish remover, lighter fluid, a can of whipped cream, and glue have in common? They are just a few of the hundreds of everyday products that can be abused to get high. Curious youths often try inhalants because they are cheap, legal, and easy to get. However, inhalants are harmful and can be deadly. As parents, you can do a lot to prevent your children from risking their futures-and even their lives-with inhalants.
Inhalants All Around Us
Inhalants include a wide variety of products:
- Cleaning agents such as spot removers and dry cleaning fluid.
- Aerosols such as hair spray, deodorant, and spray paint.
- Adhesives such as glue and rubber cement.
- Food products such as cooking spray.
- Gases such as helium, propane, and nitrous oxide ("laughing gas").
- Solvents such as nail polish remover and paint thinner. 1, 2
Because inhalants are easy to get, young people often use them before they start to use tobacco or alcohol.3
Users inhale, or "huff," the chemical vapors from these products to get high. Inhalants are so common that they often go unnoticed as a substance abuse issue. Yet eighth-graders are more likely to have used inhalants in the past year than any illegal drug except marijuana.4
Inhalant use among eighth-graders has risen for the last 2 years. In 2004, nearly 1 in 10 eighth-graders reported using inhalants in the past year, up from 1 in 13 eighth-graders 2 years earlier.5 More than 1 in 6 eighth-graders reported using inhalants at some time in their lives.6
Because inhalants are, for the most part, legal and easy to get, children may not realize how harmful these substances are. In 2004, 5 in 8 eighth-graders-on average 15 students in a class of 24-did not see great risk in trying inhalants.7 Wrong! People can be injured, suffer serious health effects, or die any time they use inhalants. Over time, inhalant use reduces mental and physical abilities, damages internal organs, and causes problems in school-falling grades, chronic absences, and general apathy.8
When you talk with your children about the use of harmful substances, inhalants deserve special attention. Since inhalants are so common, parents may find it easy to start a conversation about them. Starting when children are young, stress the need for ventilation with certain products. Teach kids to read labels and follow directions. Teachable moments include cooking, using cosmetics or cleaning materials, and putting gas in the car or lawnmower.
Make sure your children know the truth about inhalants:
- Household products are not safe just because they are common-they contain poisons and harmful chemicals that are not made for humans to huff.
- Many people have died the first time they tried an inhalant
- Depending on the product they inhale, users can suffer lasting damage to the nostrils and the lungs. They also can suffer from hearing loss, limb spasms, and brain damage.9
Parents should be careful not to arouse children's curiosity or to give them ideas about inhalants they might not have thought about. Discussion about inhalants can include helping a child practice how to deal with peer pressure-turning aside offers or dares-to try inhalants.
A Final Word
Too many people don't know about inhalants. Many parents are concerned about drug use but don't realize that products in their own homes can be dangerous. Meanwhile, too many kids are using them and risking tragic consequences. By becoming more aware and alert regarding inhalant abuse, parents and those who work with youths can prevent harm and heartbreak.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Tips for Teens: The Truth About Inhalants, last referenced 5/27/2005. (Also available as a print publication.)
- Alliance for Consumer Education. Inhalant.org: Tips for Parents, last referenced 5/27/2005.
- Connect for Kids, April 25, 2005. The Cheapest High, last referenced 5/27/2005.
- Parents: The Anti-Drug. Inhalants, last referenced 5/27/2005.
Reprinted with the permission of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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