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Inhalant Abuse: It's Deadly
Inhalants are breathable chemical vapors
that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) effects.
Although people are exposed to volatile solvents and other inhalants in the home, at school, and in the workplace, many do not think of inhalable substances as drugs because most of them were never meant to be used in that way.
Types of inhalants
The dangers of using inhalants
Although different in makeup, nearly all abused inhalants produce effects similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body's functions. When inhaled via the nose or mouth into the lungs in sufficient concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxicating effects.
Intoxication can last only a few minutes or several hours if inhalants are taken repeatedly. Initially, users may feel slightly stimulated. With successive inhalations, they may feel less inhibited and less in control. Finally, a user can lose consciousness.
Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death. This is especially common from the abuse of fluorocarbons and butane-type gases.
High concentrations of inhalants also cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing ceases.
Other irreversible effects caused by inhaling specific solvents
Amyl and butyl nitrites have been associated with Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), the most common cancer reported among AIDS patients. Early studies of KS showed that many people with KS had used volatile nitrites. Researchers are continuing to explore the hypothesis of nitrites as a factor contributing to the development of KS in HIV-infected people.
Serious but potentially reversible effects
Death from inhalants
Death from inhalants is usually caused by a very high concentration of fumes. Deliberately inhaling from an attached paper or plastic bag or in a closed area greatly increases the chances of suffocation. Even when using aerosols or volatile products for their legitimate purposes (i.e., painting, cleaning), it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.
Prevention and Treatment
National surveys indicate that more than 12.5 million Americans have abused inhalants at least once in their lives. Initial use of inhalants often starts early, often in elementary school. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), approximately one in five eighth-graders have abused inhalants. Most inhalant abuse occurs after dinner between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Immediate treatment is directed at reversing life-threatening symptoms. A calm, quiet atmosphere should be provided to prevent adrenalin surge which can bring about cardiac arrhythmia and cause Sudden Sniffing Death (SSD). Know what to do in an emergency.
Compulsive use and a mild withdrawal syndrome can occur with long-term inhalant abuse. Research suggests that chronic or long-term inhalant abusers are among the most difficult to treat and they may experience multiple psychological and social problems. There is more chance of recovery the earlier intervention begins.
Here are some excellent resources for help, support, and information:
Founded by Mona Casey who lost her son, Charles Ian Gray, to refrigerant inhalation, UPROAR's mission is to help prevent senseless deaths as a result of huffing refrigerant by raising awareness through education, proposing legislative changes, and providing an online community for others to share their experience.
How can you tell if a young person may be an inhalant abuser?
What are other signs of inhalant abuse?
What products are abused?
How are inhalants used?
TAKE POSITIVE ACTION: The design of most existing air conditioning units leave the dangerous and potentially lethal refrigerant easily accessible. Contact your AC service provider today and request locking caps be installed on your AC unit. Novent Locking Refrigerant Caps
'Huffing' Household Chemicals Connected to Teen Suicide ~ With suicide as the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, a University of Denver study reveals inhaling or "huffing" vapors of common household goods, such as glue or nail polish, are associated with increased suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Inhalant Prevention Resource Guide for Educators, Grades K-12 (pdf) ~ This resource guide was developed for use with students in grades K-12, and is designed for adult use with information, a prevention framework, sample lessons, materials, and resources. It can be augmented with other curricula and activities, and can be integrated into different subject areas. The materials and concepts are also adaptable for special needs students.
Inhalant-Related Psychiatric Disorders ~ The inhalation of these substances can cause permanent organ damage and death. Huffing is a problem in the United States and abroad, and it accounts for a large portion of emergency department visits. This paper addresses the diagnosis of inhalant-related psychiatric disorders, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders DSM-IV-TR.
Inhalants ~ Comprehensive evidence-based article by health professionals. Excellent.
Research Report on Inhalant Abuse ~ Through scientific research, we have learned much about the nature and extent of inhalant abuse, its pharmacology, and its consequences. This research has brought the picture of inhalant abuse in our Nation into focus and pointed to the dangers and the warning signs for parents, educators, and clinicians.
Ricky Joe Stem, Jr. Memorial ~ In memory of 16-year-old Ricky Joe Stem, Jr. who died from Sudden Sniffing Death (SSD) and information on the danger of inhalant abuse.
Tragedy in the Household ~ Dr. Richard Heiss tells about the huffing death of his son, Wade.
Youths Die By Inhaling Household Substances ~ Long term abuse of inhalants has been linked to damage to the optic nerve, diminishment of cognitive abilities, and kidney, liver, and bone diseases. They can eventually lead to various kinds of organic brain syndromes, convulsions, coma, or even cardiac arrest. Worse yet, according to medical professionals, is the fact that few young people are successfully resuscitated following inhalant induced cardiac arrythmias. Statistically, most children that suffer cardiac arrest are eventually pronounced dead. For some, the initial reaction to inhalant can cause almost immediate death.
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