Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Parents need to educate children on “huffing”

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2017

Amy Hathaway, LACE Coordinator

Many parents educate their children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but there are other substances that are often forgotten in these discussions: inhalants. Inhalant abuse, or huffing, refers to the deliberate sniffing of common products found in homes and communities with the sole purpose of “getting high.”

These products include: correction fluid, air conditioning coolant, gasoline; propane, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane, cooking spray and glue. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, nearly 20 percent of all eighth graders have experimented with some form of inhalant.

This statistic is alarming because when intentionally misused, inhalants are so dangerous that “sudden sniffing death” can result after a single inhalant use. Over the past six years, more than 800 deaths have been linked to inhalant abuse. Inhalants are addictive and considered to be “gateway” drugs because children often progress from inhalants to illegal drug and alcohol abuse.

After the use of an inhalant, a user may feel slightly stimulated. Repeated inhalations make them feel less inhibited and less in control. If use continues, users can lose consciousness. High concentration of inhalants can cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing stops. Deliberately inhaling from a bag greatly increases the chances of suffocation. Chronic abuse of inhalants can cause severe long-term damage to the brain, the liver and the kidneys. Other effects include: hearing loss, limb spasms, bone marrow damage and blood oxygen depletion.

Inhalants are sometimes thought of as substances abused by middle school students. Although that is often the case, it isn’t always: Charles Keegan Stroud, a fun-loving 14 year old, watched a classmate huff computer duster he stole from the teacher’s desk. He said it was no different than sucking helium from a balloon. Charlie tried it at home, and his best friend found him dead minutes later.

Lisa Doughty, age 30, left behind her two sons; age four and nine, her brother, other family and a host of friends, when she died from huffing. Matt Young was inhaling refrigerant as a young teen but stopped when he was shown that it can be deadly. Later, he inhaled gasoline daily for several months. At age 21, Matt was found dead on a neighbor’s air conditioning unit.

Ashley Long had just turned 14 when doctors told her parents that she had inhaled helium, which caused asphyxiation resulting in death. David Manlove, age 16, discovered he could get high by inhaling the propellant from computer duster and the chemical would not show up on drug screens administered by the treatment facility he attended. David died due to huffing.

Children think that “if it’s in the house, it can’t be that dangerous.” They see huffing in movies and on television, or portrayed as harmless and funny on YouTube. But we need to teach children that inhaling is not “harmless.” It is a very real game of Russian roulette. For more information, visit LACE on Facebook at Local Anti-Drug Coalition Efforts – LACE.