This week I’d like to talk about a growing concern in our schools, to our parents and our Law Enforcement Officials. It’s called “Huffing”!
Let’s start with the definition of Huffing. Huffing describes “the abuse of chemical inhalants to achieve feelings of intoxication, euphoria and other symptoms”. Huffing and inhalant use are more common than you probably are aware of. Approximately 1.5 million Canadians have abused inhalants at least once in their lives.
Inhalant use is common among our youth, and by the eighth grade one in five children has tried huffing at least once. In Canada, inhalants are the fourth most commonly abused substances used by our children in grades eight through twelve, after alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Most shocking, is that it’s almost impossible to control because the most abused inhalants are perfectly legal products found in every household. Literally thousands of commercial, medical and household products can be used as inhalants.
Kids are using products such as vegetable oil cooking spray, correcting fluid, felt tip markers, glue, gasoline and deodorants. Paint remover & thinner are also popular. Even whipping cream containers that contain nitrous oxide can be used.
When huffing, inhalant abusers soak a rag with the inhalant and stuff the rag in their mouths. Other methods include sniffing or snorting the inhalants directly from a container or spraying aerosols directly into the mouth. Balloons can be filled with gas and inhaled as the balloon deflates. “Bagging” refers to inhaling from a plastic bag into which the inhalant has been emptied or sprayed.
No matter which method is used to inhale these toxic substances, abusing inhalants is always dangerous. Health risk include attention problems, confusion, loss of coordination, vomiting, depression, damage to heart, lungs, liver & kidneys, weight loss and death. At this time, statistics are unavailable for deaths associated with Huffing in Canada, but in the United States, the Government attributed 2,141 teenage deaths to Huffing in 2007.
Talking to your kids and educating them about the dangers of inhalant use is the best method for preventing Huffing. However, inhalant use can effect any family, so learn to identify signs of Huffing and other inhalant use. Warning signs include apparent drunkenness, chemical odors from breath/clothing or the child’s room, hidden rags soaked with chemicals, paint stains on the hands, face and clothes.Physical signs include loss of appetite, vomiting, red or running nose, sores/rashes around the nose and mouth. Also irritability, depression and social withdrawal.
If you are concerned, words to listen or watch for are, gluey, hardware, head cleaner, locker room, moon gas, poppers and snappers. I hope you never hear these terms used in your home, but if you do, get help for your child immediately.