Inhalant Abuse: As Close as the Kitchen Sink
WebMD News Archive
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
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.