Abuse of inhalants can be brain damaging and deadly

Published 8:21 am Monday, February 23, 2004

By Staff
This is the fifth installment in a six-part series on drug abuse, provided by the Escambia County Schools Youth Empowerment Program.
Inhalant abuse is a deadly serious behavior that can result in permanent brain damage and immediate death. This behavior is most common among young children under the age of 12.
Children sniff the chemicals from the product containers or place the chemical on a rag and "huff" it. Sniffing these compounds can cause severe brain damage and damage to the nervous system.
The inhalants work by starving the body of oxygen and can kill a user in one session.
The common products reported in our area are gasoline, whippetts, paint thinner and nail polish remover.
Whippetts are sold in pastry supply stores in the mall. They are thumb-sized containers which contain nitrous oxide that fuel whipped cream dispensers. They are usually sold in packs of 10.
Sniffing these highly concentrated chemicals can directly induce heart failure and death although some "huffers" actually die of suffocation when their lungs become coated with the chemical. Other common abused inhalants include airplane glue, rubber cement, spray paint, whipped cream cans, correction fluid, air fresheners, butane, hair spray, spot removers and dry cleaning fluid.
While under the influence of these substances youth can have impaired perceptions of reality, significantly impaired ability to reason, memory loss, defective muscle coordination and a drunken like state. The effects last from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the type and amount of chemical used.
Multiple uses of inhalants can impair the young person's ability to retain new information and they may lose skills previously learned when the memory areas of the brain are damaged. Multiple uses can also cause dementia in children.
Inhalant abuse is a very dangerous activity resulting in death or brain damage even with the first attempt. Youth mistakenly believe that since these are products normally found around the house or sold over the counter that they are not harmful.
For more information on drugs, a referral for drug abuse screening or testing or counseling intervention, please contact Sheri L. Cox, Youth Empowerment Coordinator, Escambia County Schools, 296-0633, scox@escambiak12.net.

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