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Silent Killer: Inhalant Abuse

NCJ Number
Counselor Volume: 3 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2002 Pages: 48-52
Maxim W. Furek M.A.
Date Published
February 2002
5 pages
This article examines the dangers, motivation for use, and symptoms of abuse for inhalants, along with ways to address the problem.
"Huffing" is the practice of inhaling chemical fumes into the lungs. Huffing cuts off and poisons the brain's oxygen supply. The brain is starved of oxygen while substances that contain glue-like chemicals can seal out the transfer of oxygen to the bloodstream. High concentrations of inhalants can cause immediate suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs. In addition, the sedating effects of the inhaled substances can cause the heart and lungs to stop working as the central nervous system becomes depressed. Long-term damage may include memory and/or hearing loss, spasms, and bone marrow damage. Chronic abuse of certain products that contain toluene can produce severe damage to the liver, kidneys, and brain. Huffing is most common in 12- to 14-year-olds. Motivation for inhalant use in this age group includes peer pressure, the cheapness and accessibility of various inhalants, and thrill-seeking impulses. Symptoms of inhalant use may include an intoxicated appearance, chronic cough, visual disturbances, hallucinations, severe headaches, and convulsions. Prevention must begin early with a progressive, school-based inhalant abuse strategy beginning with kindergarten. Parents as well as schools must become involved in the education of children about the danger of inhalant use. 13 references