Inhalant abuse can kill. And if it doesn't kill you, it can
leave you with severe brain damage or severe respiratory problems.
There's no fooling around — even a first-time user can
end up dead after "sniffing" or "huffing"
Everyday products like glue, paint, lighter fluid, fingernail polish,
permanent markers, Whiteout®, deodorants, and anything in an aerosol
can are sniffed to get a rapid and dangerous high. While this type of
substance abuse may seem harmless because the products are not legally
classified as drugs, they are deadly chemicals and poisons. An inhalant
"high" may give the feeling of well-being and reduce inhibitions, much
like the effects of alcohol and other sedatives. Higher doses produce
laughter and giddiness, feelings of floating, time and space distortions,
and hallucinations. But the reality is inhalant abuse has serious short-
and long-term side effects.
The Short Term
Sniffing can make you sick. For example, victims may become nauseated,
forgetful, and unable to see things clearly. Some victims lose control
of their body, including the use of arms and legs. You don't
look real cool stumbling around high from inhalants. Side effects
can last 15 to 45 minutes after sniffing. People who sniff often
act intoxicated and experience short-term memory loss as well.
The Long Term
- potential "Sudden Sniffing Death" even for first-time
- permanent brain damage
- hearing loss
- increased heart rate
- arm or leg spasms
- bone marrow damage
- liver and kidney damage
- damage to an unborn baby, if pregnant.
Chronic inhalant abusers may exhibit such symptoms as anxiety,
excitability, irritability, or restlessness that can lead to violent
What Are Some Signs of Inhalant Abuse?
Inhalant abusers may show all or some of these symptoms:
- unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing
- slurred or slowed speech
- a general drunken appearance
- paint or other products on the face or fingers
- red or runny eyes or nose
- spots or sores around the mouth
- nausea and/or loss of appetite.
What Should You Do if Someone You Know Is Sniffing and
Seems To Be in Trouble?
- Stay calm.
- Call 911 — or your local medical emergency number.
- Open the windows and doors to let in fresh air.
- Do not excite or argue with an abuser under the influence,
as he or she can become aggressive or violent.
- Administer CPR until help arrives if the abuser is not breathing.
- Ask the abuser to sit down and stay calm — activity or
stress may cause heart problems, which could lead to "Sudden
- Talk with other persons present or check the area for clues
to what was used.
- Help the abuser get professional help from a school nurse,
counselor, physician, or health care worker. Once he or she is
recovered, offer to go with the abuser to his or her appointment.
What Can You Do To Prevent Inhalant Abuse?
Know the facts. Remember that inhalants are not made for the body.
They are deadly chemicals and poisons. Know the many ways inhalants
can damage your mind and body. Tell your friends about the dangers
of inhalant abuse. And refuse to hang out with friends who sniff.
As with many prevention efforts, preventing inhalant abuse takes
a community effort. Organize with other teens to take the lead in
involving the media, retailers, schools, churches, health care providers,
civic and volunteer organizations, elected officials, and the law
enforcement community to work together to stop kids from sniffing.
Churches could educate their youth groups. Retailers could monitor
their sales of certain products. Health care providers could pass
out literature to patients.
- Work with local middle and elementary schools to start an inhalant
abuse prevention project. It is not unusual for this kind of abuse
to start as early as 10 or even 7 years of age.
- Educate your school about the dangers of inhalants through posters,
newspaper articles, and announcements over the P.A. system at your school.
- Participate in National Inhalants and Poisons Week. Contact
the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at 800-269-4237 for
- Educate adults about inhalant abuse. Many parents, coaches,
and teachers may not know how widespread the problem, the extent
of the danger, or how to recognize abuse.
- If you're tempted to use, get help from a counselor — fast.
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Crime Prevention Tips Provided by:
National Crime Prevention Council