When people think of inhalant abuse (sniffing glue, gasoline, turpentine etc.) they generally tend to picture inner city homeless; poor souls already past the hope of help.
But the reality of inhalant abuse is far different, and far scarier. 17 million Americans report having used inhalants at least once, and the most common age of experimentation is during late childhood and the early teen years.
What is inhalant abuse?
Kids sniffing glue, gasoline or other volatile chemicals, enjoy an intense and pleasant high, and a sense of intoxication resembling drunkenness in its outward appearance. Yet although kids abusing inhalants may look drunk, the intensity of the intoxication is far stronger, and these kids are at risk from impaired judgment and the risk of accidents, but far more troubling are the risks of both acute and chronic health damage.
Inhalant abuse can cause fatal heart failure, at any time, and there are some tragic cases of kids dying from a first experimentation. Chronic use can cause brain damage, damage to virtually all of the organs and a greatly increased risk for a legion of cancers. Tragically much of this damage once caused, is irreversible.
Inhaling solvents is also addictive, and kids experimenting with glue sniffing are at risk for dependency and ever increasing abuse, with all of the health risks associated with that.
Because younger kids may have trouble securing other types of drugs or alcohol, and because the substances needed for inhalant abuse can be either procured from the home, or easily purchased, the most likely inhalant abusers are kids.
Parents need to be alert and vigilant to the signs of abuse, never ignore these signs, and because the risks of abuse are so extreme; get professional help and intervention immediately if any abuse suspected.
5 Warning signs to look out for
1…Inhalant paraphernalia in the room, in a school bag or in the house. Old spray cans, tubes of glue etc. or bags smelling strongly of solvents.
2…A chemical smell on the person or in the clothes. Unless your kid is moonlighting in a factory, there is no reason for regular chemical aromas.
3…Stains on the clothes or the face. Kids abusing inhalants will often spill quantities of these staining substances on the clothes, and may also have traces on their faces from inhaling out of bags.
4…A loss of appetite. Inhalant abuse negatively affects hunger, and it is not normal for healthy and growing kids to be consistently without appetite.
5…Confusion or seeming intoxication. Never ignore the obvious signs of intoxication thinking your kids are too young to be experimenting with inhalants. Most inhalant abusers start their habit very young, and kids don’t look drunk without good reason.
Don’t wait if you suspect abuse
The damage of an inhalant addiction is unparalleled and tragic, and kids at any age are at risk of abuse. Talk to your kids about the dangers, and be aware to the signs that point to abuse ( A parent’s guide to drug abuse). If you see or even suspect a problem, make sure you take action. The dangers of doing too much are few, yet the risks of inaction are heartbreaking.