Inhalant abuse is a dangerous practice. Not only can it be incredibly harmful, but the materials required are often easy to get hold of. Most households across the USA will contain a handful of products that huffers can use to get high. More worrying is that the practice of inhalant abuse is most popular with children under the age of 18. Seven per cent of eighth graders surveyed in 2011 admitted to inhalant abuse. Some people are as young as five or six when they start (1).
The practice involves sniffing or huffing chemical vapors in order to achieve a feeling of euphoria or high. Substances abused can include:
Nail polish remover (2)
The high from sniffing substances usually only lists for a few minutes. Abusers often indulge repeatedly over a short period of time in order to prolong the high. While the ‘positive’ effects wear off quickly, repeated substance abuse tends to lead to more severe and longer lasting symptoms of inhalant abuse, such as headaches. Becoming addicted to substance abuse isn’t common, but it can still happen.
Symptoms of Inhalant Abuse
The longer a person indulges in inhalant abuse, the more severe the symptoms that appear will be. Glue sniffing, and huffing other chemicals, can cause similar symptoms to being drunk. They include becoming light-headed or drowsy, and loss of inhibitions. Longer term use can lead to larger mental changes, including hallucinations or delusions, apathy, and impaired judgement. Long term symptoms of inhalant abuse can be extreme behavioral changes, such as:
Lack of coordination
Weight loss (2)
Inhalant Abuse can cause long term damage to the nervous and respiratory systems, causing poor memory and attention span, irregular heartbeat, and breathing problems. Sniffing chemicals can be fatal on any occasion, even if the abuser has never tried it before. The fact that many abusers are so young makes it a serious problem, as they may not understand or appreciate the severity of the damage substances can cause them, and the lasting effects it can have. The fact these substances are not illegal makes many of them simple to get hold of, even for minors.
Signs of Inhalant Use
It can be hard to spot the signs of substance abuse in teens because their moods and behavior often change for many reasons. Worsening grades, constant fatigue, irritability and paranoia can all be signs of inhalant use. Signs are often subtle, but any change in behavior could suggest an underlying problem. A stronger sign of inhalant use is if you can find common household products stored in unusual places, such as cleaning products or spray paint under a teenager’s bed. Keep an eye out for items that don’t match their interests as well: a selection of permanent markers when your child has no need for them, for instance. Unusually large quantities of commonplace items, such as several bottles of hairspray, could also suggest substance abuse.
If you think someone you know may be abusing substances it is worth getting advice, even if just to put your fears at rest. If you are concerned about a child, friend, or loved one, call Steps to Recovery for more information and support.