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Inhalants

Inhalants are everywhere. More than likely they are all over your house, in schools, and in the workplace. What exactly is inhalant use? Inhalant use refers to the intentional breathing of gas or vapors with the purpose of getting high. Inhalants are legal, everyday products that have a useful purpose, but can be intentionally misused. You are most likely familiar with many of these substances -- paint, glue and others. But you probably don't know that there are more than 1,000 products that are very dangerous when inhaled -- things like typewriter correction fluid, air-conditioning refrigerant, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane and even cooking spray. Easy accessibility, low cost, and ease of concealment make inhalants, for many, one of the first substances abused.

Common modes of administration are sniffing or huffing directly from the containers of products such as rubber cement or correction fluid, sniffing fumes from plastic bags over the head, or sniffing cloth saturated with the substance. The substance may also be inhaled directly from an aerosol can or out of alternative containers such as a balloon filled with nitrous oxide. Some volatile substances may release intoxicating vapors when heated.

Inhalants are abused by all races and ages of people although, statistics show that young, white males have the highest usage rates. Hispanic and American Indian populations also show high rates of usage. Nearly all types of inhalants that are abused produce effects similar to anesthetics, which slow down the body's function. Varying upon level of dosage, the user can experience slight stimulation, feeling of less inhibition or loss of consciousness. The user can also suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. This means the user can die the 1st, 10th or 100th time he or she uses an inhalant. Other effects include damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs. Results similar to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may also occur when inhalants are used during pregnancy. Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting and users suffer withdrawal symptoms.

It is never too early to teach your children about the dangers of inhalants. Do not assume "not my kid". That may be the nail in their coffin. Inhalant use starts as early as elementary school and is considered a gateway to further substance abuse. Parents often remain ignorant of inhalant use or do not educate their children until it is too late. Inhalants are not drugs. They are poisons and toxins and should be discussed as such.

If someone you know is huffing (the term for using inhalants), the best thing to do is remain calm and seek professional help. Agitation may cause the huffer to become violent, experience hallucinations or suffer heart dysfunction which can cause Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. Also, make sure the room is well ventilated and call 911. If the person is not breathing, administer CPR. Once revived, seek professional treatment for the individual.

Although treatment facilities that specialize in inhalant abuse are rare and difficult to find it is possible and necessary for the users' recovery. Inhalant users usually suffer a high rate of relapse, and require thirty to forty days or more of detoxification. Users suffer withdrawal symptoms which can include hallucinations, nausea, excessive sweating, hand tremors, muscle cramps, headaches, chills and delirium tremens. Follow-up treatment is very important.


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