A Big Stink

A Big Stink

by Colleen Shemeley

Question: What type of drug has one in five eighth-graders used to get high?

Hint: Two-thirds of teens actually believe this type of drug has little or no danger. It’s easy to find, cheap to buy and deadly. More addictive than cocaine, it’s not tobacco, alcohol or even marijuana. And it’s found under your kitchen sink or in your garage.

Answer: Inhalants.

Inhalants have vapors or gases that are breathed in to receive a high. They include glues, aerosols, felt-tip markers, solvents, fuels and cleaners. Kids who would never consider doing illegal drugs find themselves huffing (inhaling) these toxic chemicals.

Once inhaled, these poisonous fumes travel from the lungs to the heart and end up in the brain. Without being filtered through the liver or kidneys, they are extremely potent in killing brain cells which causes brain damage.

The list of side effects is astounding: suffocation, hallucinations, numbness, tingling, hearing and smelling loss, shaking, personality changes, severe mood swings, memory loss, learning disabilities and even leukemia.

Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome can occur the first time a user tries huffing or the 100th time he inhales. The chemicals cause the heart to beat irregularly and it simply stops pumping.

So how do you talk to your middle schooler about the overwhelming dangers of huffing? Chances are he has already been exposed to inhalants either at school or at home and may know more about them than you do. However, he probably doesn’t know all the facts.

Try talking about oxygen deprivation, body pollution, peer resistance strategies and inhalants being very real drugs. However, be careful not to tell too much too soon. You know what your child will be able to handle.

At the same time, be aware of signs of inhalant use in your child: paint stains on body or clothes, empty spray cans, rags and plastic bags, red or runny nose and eyes, slurred speech, chemical smell on breath, decreased appetite, poor memory, sores on mouth and throat and agitation or irritability.

If you would like resources or information about inhalants visit the Web site inhalants.org.

Copyright © 2001 Colleen Shemeley. Used by permission. This article first appeared in the October, 2001 Growing Years edition of Focus on the Family magazine.