Inhalant Abuse: As Close as the Kitchen Sink
The ease of access to inhalants makes the problem difficult to detect, and helps create a perception that the problem is not as common among young people as alcohol, drugs, or tobacco, according to Jacobs. More than 1,000 common items, from cooking spray to paint to glue to gasoline, can give off the necessary fumes. The medical drug nitrous oxide is also a popular inhalant.
The effect for the user can be a temporary euphoria. But the damage can be deadly, even for first-time users. The toxic chemicals can also cause bad headaches, hallucinations, nausea, and muscle spasms. Short-term memory loss and permanent brain damage also may occur.
The dangers of inhalant abuse are taught in about three-quarters of classrooms nationwide, according to the AAP report. Of the 600 children questioned, just over half say they've discussed huffing with their families.
But the younger children, aged 10-11, are the least likely to be educated about inhalant abuse at school. And over half of the younger children surveyed had not discussed the problem with their families.
Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, told WebMD in an interview last fall that the facts "validate ... that there's a problem [everywhere]."
For parents and teachers, the AAP says the warning signs and symptoms of inhalant abuse may be breath and clothing that smells like chemicals, paint or stains on the body or clothing, spots or sores around the mouth, a dazed or glassy-eyed look, or a sudden change in appetite or mood.
- Parents may not realize it, but up until the time they reach eighth grade, more children abuse household items like glue and gasoline than marijuana.
- After children reach the eighth grade, inhalants are the fourth most commonly abused substance, after alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.
- Doctors say inhalant abuse can be fatal. It also can cause brain damage, memory loss, nausea, headaches, and muscle spasms. Warning signs of abuse are breath and clothing smelling like chemicals, paint or stains on the body or clothing, spots or sores around the mouth, a dazed or glassy-eyed look, or a sudden change in appetite or mood.