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The Dangers of Inhalants

Parents worry about their teenagers experimenting with drugs on the street or at school, but many  never stop to consider their teen may be getting high from products found in their own home.

The facts:
•    Younger teenagers are finding that household products can provide a cheap high.
•    Inhalants are popular among the 8th grade crowd, due to their availability.
•    One in ten Arizona 8th graders  has tried an inhalant

So parents, what do you need to know?
There are three main types of inhalants: solvents, gases and nitrates. Inhalants can be found in a range of products, like paint thinners, glues, cleaning products, nail polish removers, gases, lighter fluids and aerosol sprays. These are favored among young teenagers because they are easily accessible and give off a mood-altering high.
Like many other drugs, there are different ways to get high off of inhalants. Teenagers usually sniff or snort fumes from containers, paper and plastic bags, spray aerosols directly into the nose or “huffing” from an inhalant-soaked rag stuffed in or over their mouth. The extreme side-effects from inhalants can occur on first use or after prolonged abuse.  Side-effects include increased heart rate, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, and slurred speech.  People who become long-term users of inhalants are more likely to suffer from brain damage, muscle weakness, chronic headaches, depression and loss of hearing or smell. Serious injuries can occur while someone is high on inhalants. A person can get high on these inhalants, and make poor decisions, such as driving, and can seriously injure themselves or another person.
The most common cause of death from inhalant use is known as “sudden sniffing death.” This can happen even the first time that someone tries an inhalant. Once someone inhales the toxic fumes, the heart beats quickly and irregularly, and suddenly stops. Other causes of death include asphyxia, choking (on vomit), suffocation (when a plastic bag is used to increase the amount inhaled) and suicide (from depression).
How to keep your kids safe:
Keep an eye on all household cleaners with harsh chemical smells. Also keep an eye out for disappearing glue, paint or aerosol sprays. Talk with your teenager to see if there is a change in mood or behavior.  Teenagers using inhalants will also have dilated pupils, extreme exhaustion, frequent vomiting and facial rashes and blisters.
DrugFreeAz.org offers parent workshops, webinars and other resources to help provide parents with the tools they need to keep their teen safe and substance free.

For more tips on talking to teens and information about prevention, visit DrugFreeAZ.org.