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Inhalants: Not a Drug of the Past

It seems like a long time ago that our news broadcasts were filled with stories of teens getting in trouble for ‘huffing’ permanent markers and spray paint. Unfortunately, while these stories may not inundate our televisions and computer screens anymore, the threat and prevalence of teens, inhalants and addiction should still be on our radar. There are three main types of inhalants: solvents, gases and nitrates. The use of these inhalants creates a short “high” feeling, similar to the feeling of anesthesia. The numbing, drug-like sensation calms the body down and sometimes causes the user to go unconscious.

Obviously, the extensive use of inhalants turns into addiction and can have serious long-term effects and even instant death. The most dangerous aspect of inhalants and addictions to huffing is that many of the items used can be found in every household. Paints, hair sprays and lighter fluid are among some of the most common inhalants.

The reality is that you could be fueling your child’s addiction to inhalants without knowing it. Because inhalants only produce a short high, users, especially those who have an addiction, huff the chemicals over and over to sustain the numbing sensation. Inhaling a large amount of these drugs can cause “heart failure, suffocation, seizures and coma.” The instant death I previously referred to is called “sudden sniffing death” and may occur “to a completely healthy person from a single session of inhalant use. ” Even if the user avoids death, after just one use inhalants can “disrupt heart rhythms and lower oxygen levels. ”As far as long-term effects, inhalant addiction can negatively affect the body similar to that of other drug and alcohol use. Inhalants enter through the nose and mouth and into the lungs, which causes the chemicals to enter the bloodstream and quickly reach the other organs in the body, including the brain. Over time and continued use and addiction, inhalants can cause “nerve damage that produces results similar to that of multiple sclerosis. ” Damage from addiction can also occur in other major organs such as the kidneys, heart and lungs. Also similar to other drugs, this addiction can cause irreparable damage to one’s thought processes, sight and hearing.

So how do you prevent your child from falling into inhalant use and addiction? The best method of prevention is education. Due to the accessible nature of inhalants, it is hard to keep these drugs completely out of reach. Education and open communication are the keys, with treatment and rehabilitation being vital if addiction is discovered.

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