There was a time when a child caught smoking at school was a major concern for parents… Sadly now in 2011, with June being National Youth Month, and 20 – 26 June SANCA Drug Awareness Week, this month’s HouseCall! sheds light on a dangerous new trend known as “huffing”. While some parents and teachers may not have heard of this “killer” trend, incidents of children and teenagers inhaling common toxic household fumes for a high are on the rise, with a Gauteng teenager recently dying from heart failure after a “huffing” incident.
Many people do not see inhalants as drugs, because they are freely available in the home or workplace and they have other uses. These inhalants are breathable chemical vapors that can cause mind-altering effects. These inhalants are usually volatile solvents. Inhalants are popular among children because they are cheap, readily available, require no dealer or special equipment to use, and they take effect quickly and wear off quickly.
What your child could “huff”
The different categories of inhalants:
Solvents – household or industrial, such as paint thinners and different types of glue
Art or office supply solvents – correction fluids, felt-tip marker fluid
Gases – these are used in many products including lighters or refrigeration gases
Aerosol propellants –
spray paints, hair or deodorant sprays
Medical anaesthetic gases –
ether chloroform and laughing gas
Amyl nitrate – poppers.
Inhalants release the brain chemical dopamine that leads to feelings of pleasure and reward. Inhalants can lead to serious medical complications. Long-term effects of sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can be very serious and include liver and kidney damage, blood oxygen depletion, suffocation, heart failure and sudden death. High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing ceases. Glue, correction fluids and paint spray inhalation can lead to hearing loss. Glue, gas cylinder and petrol inhalation can result in muscle spasms. Glue and paint sprays can lead to central nervous system and brain damage and petrol inhalation can cause bone marrow damage.