Early drug use problems: Kids, inhalants, and huffing.

Parents can save lives by educating their kids about the dangers of inhalants22.9 million Americans report trying inhalants at least once in their lives.

When it comes to drug use problems, inhalants are often the first drugs that kids decide to experiment with. The habit is often called huffing. While use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, and other drugs peaks around the 12th grade, inhalant use peaks in the 8th grade. A study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 17.3% of 8th graders have abused inhalants before.

Why does kids’ drug-use start with inhalants so early in life?

Many kids start inhalant drug use by accident; they like the smell of glue, whiteout, or gasoline, take a long inhale, get high, and keep going. For others, inhalant use is introduced through friends.

Also, attaining drugs can be somewhat of a challenge when you are 13 years old. Inhalants solve this problem. Inhalants are found in a variety of household products including: spray paint, nail polish remover, whiteout, marker, gasoline, glue, keyboard cleaner, shoe polish, and aerosol sprays. These products are easy to buy and relatively inexpensive, even for young kids. They can often be found readily in the house, which also makes them easy to hide.

Inhalants, the brain, and organ damage

Inhalants can be breathed in directly or concentrated in a container such as a plastic bag or cloth and then inhaled. Most inhalants work by depressing the central nervous system. The chemicals are absorbed through the lungs and proceed into the bloodstream, where they quickly reach the brain and other organs. Inhalant intoxication looks very similar to being drunk: Slurred speech, bad coordination, euphoria, dizziness, and drowsiness are all common during inhalant drug use.

The inhalant high only lasts a few minutes, so people often use inhalants repeatedly for several hours. This can have some devastating long-term effects. Brain damage, nerve damage, and organ damage are all possible. Inhalant use can impair vision, hearing, and movement. Inhalant drug-use is also linked with a variety of mental disorders, including antisocial personality disorder and depression. In pregnant animals, inhalant use has been linked to low birth weight, skeletal abnormalities, and delayed development.

Most tragically, even a single session of inhalant use can cause heart failure and consequently, death. The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition reports 100 to 125 inhalant-related deaths per year. This is particularly sad considering the fact that many of these individuals are kids and haven’t even left middle school yet.

Dr. Jaffe talking about huffing and inhalant abuse on Fox News

http://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=4625223&w=466&h=263Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com


1. Seigial, J.T., Alvaro, E.M., Patel, N., Crano, W.D. (2009) “…you would probably want to do it. Cause that’s what made them popular.” Exploring Perceptions of Inhalant Utility Among Young Adolescent Nonusers and Occasional Users. Substance Use & Misuse. 44(597-615)
2. NIDA. Inhalant Abuse. 2005

9 responses to “Early drug use problems: Kids, inhalants, and huffing.”

  1. As a child I used to smell petrol from the cars and I used to like it. I did not think that I was a problem. Also I used to smell glue which was normal in the classroom.

  2. I’m sick of Just Say No mentality. First of all, nobody would be sniffing glue if high quality recreational drugs were freely available. Second, this article goes on and on about the evils of “inhalants” without ever defining what the term means!!! If I get my hands on an scuba tank and breathe from it, is that considered an “inhalant”? Why or why not? They say that “inhalant” use looks similar to alcohol use but they never get around to saying WHICH substance(s) when inhaled have this effect. Is oxygen included? Helium? Nitrous oxide? They said that “inhalants are found” in various products but they NEVER GET AROUND TO SAYING WHAT AN INHALANT IS!!!!!!!! According to Webster’s online, the first definition of an inhalant is “something that is inhaled” OMG all of us have been inhaling inhalants every breath since birth the SKY IS FALLING. The second definition according to webster is “any of various often toxic substances” which if you haven’t noticed is a NON DEFINITION just like the NON DEFINITION in this article. Would essential oils be considered inhalants? If you wear perfume are you forcing all of those around you to consume inhalants? USE YOUR HEAD!!!! This article is MORE WORTHLESS THAN THE WORST GARBAGE. The author is apparently not even aware that they are not saying anything of meaning.

    • Dear More (I do love me belligerent anonymous commenting),
      I would simply approve and ignore your comment, obviously directed as it is at rhetorical statements for your own enjoyment. But alas, I haven’t learned to ignore people like you yet, so I’ll take the time to answer this drivel.
      Libertarianism aside, if you really believe that the answer to 10 year-olds sniffing glue is to make weed, coke, and heroin legal for them to use, than I call bullshit on everything else you say. Obviously you didn’t read that most kids discover inhalants accidentally so legalization of other substances would have, wait for it, NO effect on what I’m talking about here (unless maybe you’re suggesting we just give them the drugs).
      Secondly, if you really are confused about whether oxygen and water would be considered inhalants, I’m ready to just call you stupid, but obviously that’s not the case, so here: Inhalants are any psychoactive substance that can be used simply by vapor inhalation. The term is broad and includes too many groups of substances for me to list, so I didn’t but instead gave examples. you do understand what examples are right?
      Lastly, viz your next comment and again the possible confusion in your head between water, air, and inhalants, are you suggesting somehow that drowning is NOT an important issue and that lifeguards should immediately be pulled from all beaches and pools? Or are you instead suggesting that because 25 times more people die from drowning that we shouldn’t care about kids that die from inhalant use? If it’s the former, bullshit again (see above) and if it’s the latter, tell that to the parents who have lost their kids because of glue, gasoline, and paint sniffing. If you’re confused about where to find them, go to inhalants.org.

      So in closing, thanks for (not) reading and instead simply posting something that probably sounded really clever to you while you were doing it.

  3. In retrospect, I’m guessing the “more just say no, BS” contributer would probably if asked, not want any child of his or hers to get caught up in the world of substance abuse, and least of all die from it. What seems terrifying to me, is the blatant disregard for being open to ANY information that will make us smarter. If he had an opinion or some information that would in fact do that, I’d consider giving him/her the last word, but NO CHANCE!

  4. i am not sure if i should be worried. the reason is that i constantly find cleaners missing the spray nozzles. i havent seen any symptoms or other signs of huffing. i am not sure if this is what is happening or not.

    • Hi Charity, I think you’re saying that you’re afraid the cleaners are being used for other purposes. I would try marking them and seeing if they’re being use outside of cleaning. If the levels are going down without your using them, it’s likely someone else is using them for something. If you have even greater suspicion at this point I would try to have an honest conversation with your child(ren).

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