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What Abusing Inhalants Does to Your Body 5 Feb 2018

What Abusing Inhalants Does to Your Body

Most parents around the country right now are so hyper-focused on their child staying away from marijuana, alcohol, and opiates. However, there is an equally dangerous form of substance abuse occurring around the world that many people take no notice of. Inhalants.

Inhalant abuse, also known as huffing, sniffing, or bagging, is a form of getting high that involves inhaling volatile substances and often aerosols. It is extremely common among young adults, as many of the chemicals are common household items that are cheap and easy to come by.

But what does it look like when someone is abusing inhalants?

Sniffing, huffing, and bagging is the other more common names for inhalants, as these are the routes that they are almost always administered in. Common things to look out for are balloons, dirty rags, nitrous oxide canisters, paper bags, and stained sleeves.

  • Sniffing can occur directly from a container or bag that holds the product, but people can also pour the substance into a plastic bag, on clothing, or rags.
  • Huffing is when a rag or article of cloth that has been soaked in the substance is placed directly over the face or into the mouth to be inhaled.
  • Bagging is when the substance is poured into a bag to be held over the face and inhaled.
  • Many users report pouring the substances onto sleeves, shirt collars, or scarves, to allow frequent inhalation over time.

A very common and widely accepted form of inhalant abuse is with Whip-Its or Balloons. People will fill a container with nitrous oxide and inhale the fumes, primarily at concerts and music festivals, as well as at home. This large amount of nitrous oxide can completely cut off the oxygen flow in the brain, resulting in a blackout where the person loses control of their body and can pass out wherever they are.

What Abusing Inhalants Does to the Body

Even one-time use of inhalants can cause serious damage to the brain and body. Since the high that comes from abusing inhalants is most commonly caused by a lack of oxygen to the Central Nervous System, disruption to heart rhythms and cardiac arrest are very common.

Suffocation and hallucinations can also occur, and the lack of oxygen can cause blacking out, also known as “fishing out”. Seizures have been known to occur, and people are often not in safe areas or surrounded by people who are unfamiliar with what to do in the case of a seizure.

Frequent abuse of inhalants can cause serious organ damage, especially in the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver. Prolonged use can create serious memory loss, ability to focus, mood swings, and digestion problems.

Over time, these chemicals can seriously erode the insides of the nose, mouth, and throat, which can greatly increase the risk of cancers. Not to mention, they destroy tooth enamel, cause bad breath, and a loss in the sense of taste over time.

In conjunction with other drugs or alcohol, abusing inhalants can be even more dangerous as there can already be lower levels of oxygen to the brain, or the lungs can already be working at maximum capacity, therefore unable to break down the chemicals that have been inhaled.

Substances to Look Out For

The most common methods of huffing, as mentioned before, are common household items. They are legal to buy at any grocery store, office supply store, or big box store like Walmart, so the growing trend among young adults and people in lower economic statuses continues to rise.

Most commonly, the substances that are abused are aerosols, volatile substances (dry cleaning fluids, paint thinner, felt tip markers, degreasers), gases (nitrous oxide, halothane, chloroform), and Nitrites (cyclohexyl, isoamyl, isobutyl)

The more common substances that people often abuse are:

  • Glue
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Keyboard Cleaner
  • Spray Paint
  • Whipped Cream Canisters
  • Cleaning Fluids
  • Hair Spray
  • White Out
  • Air Conditioning Coolant
  • Gasoline
  • Paint

The danger of abusing inhalants is that these chemicals can provide a quick source of intoxication, can be found around the house, and can cause serious health benefits, even after only one use.

The Prevalence

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, surveys report that nearly 21.7 million Americans, aged 12 and up, have used inhalants at least once.
  • The – Monitoring the Future survey reports that 13.1 percent of 8th graders throughout the United States have tried experimenting with or are abusing inhalants.  
  • Another survey, released by the American Association of Pediatrics, reports that 20% of all eighth graders have admitted to experimenting with one form of inhalants or another.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that one in five teens in the US have used inhalants to achieve a quick “high”
  • National Survey of Drug Use and Health found that 793,000 people, aged 12 and older, had used inhalants in the past twelve months. 68.4% were under the age of 18.

Since inhalants are so readily available, it is important to discuss the dangers of abusing them and to also discuss with family and friends the reasons why a loved one might be abusing inhalants.

Usually, when a child or adult is abusing drugs in any form, it has nothing to do with them being “weak-willed” or a “bad person”, but has everything to do with possible traumas, emotional disturbances, and even mental disorders. Keep an open line of communication if you, or a loved one, is abusing inhalants. It doesn’t have to be forever.

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