Huffing More Common Among Pre-Teens than Other Drug Use
We know it is important to warn children about the dangers of using drugs, both legal and illegal, both street and prescription. New data shows that it is just as important to warn them about the potentially lethal inhalants used in “huffing.”
Data released yesterday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in conjunction with the 18th annual National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week reveals that more 12 year olds have used tried “huffing” potentially lethal inhalants than have used marijuana, cocaine and hallucinogens combined.
SAMHSA data from the 2006-2008 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health show a rate of lifetime inhalant use among 12 year olds of 6.9%, compared to a rate of 5.1% for nonmedical use of prescription type drugs; a rate of 1.4% for marijuana; a rate of 0.7% for use of hallucinogens; and a 0.1% rate for cocaine use.
“Huffing” is frighteningly easy for children and teens to try. The inhalants often come in the form of common household products: airplane model glue, spray paint, hairspray, nail polish remover, typewriter correction fluid, and vegetable cooking spray to name a few.
“Huffing” or inhalant use refers to the intentional breathing of gas or vapors with the purpose of reaching a high. The user can experience slight stimulation, feeling of less inhibition or loss of consciousness.
“Huffing” is very hazardous. The “huffer” can suffer from “sudden sniffing death syndrome,” which is immediate death due to cardiac arrest. This means the “huffer” can die the 1st, 10th or 100th time he or she uses an inhalant.
Other effects from “huffing” include damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow and other organs. Results similar to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may also occur when inhalants are used during pregnancy. Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting and users suffer withdrawal symptoms.
Increased awareness of this public health risk among physicians, parents and others cannot come too soon for Kevin Talley, the father of Amber Ann Suri, who died in February 2009 after huffing. Her parents suspected something was going on when they noticed she had a pungent smell, glassy eyes, and complained about sinus problems. Although she was taken to a doctor, her real problem was not identified and she was treated only for her sinus symptoms. She died shortly thereafter.
Ashley Upchurch, a 17 year-old recovering from addiction to inhalants and other drugs, spoke at the press conference about the consequences of huffing, the importance of identifying and treating inhalant abuse and the hope of recovery. “Inhalants were a cheap, legal, and an intense high that would also enhance the feeling I would get from other drugs,” she said. “These highs nearly destroyed my life.” In recovery for two years, Ashley now participates in a recovery program and is “giving back by sharing my story of hope with others.”