One in ten teens has used a drug in the home to get high: it’s as easy as raiding the medicine cabinet. Even more disturbing, inhalants in the home are readily available. They’re cheap, perfectly legal, and every home has them. Young children often huff substances like glue or markers at school before they are even exposed to the concept of drugs.
Huffing and sniffing may sound the same, but there is a key difference. Huffing is the act of inhaling fumes either directly, or by soaking a rag with an inhalant. Sniffing or snorting is the act of ingesting the substance directly through the nostril. Another popular term used for ingesting drugs is “bagging.” Bagging is the process of huffing a vaporous substance inside of a bag.
Whether huffed or sniffed, the use of inhalants can be fatal. Long-term use can cause personality changes, memory loss, tremors, learning disabilities, and hallucinations, which are caused by the inhalant dissolving brain tissues. Using inhalants repeatedly reduces the amount of oxygen that flows to the head, which can potentially stop the heart completely. This is known as Sudden Sniffing Death. If using inhalants doesn’t kill, it can cause devastating organ damage or cancer.
Symptoms Associated with Huffing
Before your child’s drug abuse reaches that fatal point, be aware of the signs associated with huffing.
- Paint stains, glue, or other substances on the face, hands, or clothes.
- A disoriented or drunk appearance.
- Slurred speech and confusion.
- Strong chemical odors on clothes or breath.
- Hidden empty containers, chemical-soaked rags or clothes, or cleaning supplies that become depleted faster than normal.
- No appetite, nausea, or vomiting.
- Rashes or sores around the mouth or nose.
- A red or runny nose.
Places Where Abused Substances Are Found in the Home
To keep your child from using an inhalant as a gateway drug, be aware of areas in your home in which commonly used household products are found.
- Kitchen: You probably keep a lock on your liquor cabinet, but the kitchen harbors many substances that can be used to get high. Insecticides, cooking spray, and oven cleaners are of particular interest. If you suspect your child may be huffing, keep an eye on any cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink.
- Home Office: Young children especially like to huff glue and felt-tipped markers, even if they don’t know what they’re doing. Another popular inhalant is liquid paper correction fluid.
- Bedroom: The bedroom may seem peaceful and non-threatening, but teens often find hair spray, nail polish remover, and air freshener in the most unsuspecting places.
- Laundry Room: Powder detergents are easily sniffed or snorted, meaning they’re ingested directly through the nose. Liquid detergent and other cleaning products are popular huffing substances.
- Garage: The most overlooked area of the home, the garage is brimming with stored aerosols, lighter fluids, spray paints, and paint.
- Bathroom: The most tempting room for teenage drug addicts, the bathroom is a Pandora’s Box of stimulants. Underneath the bathroom sink is a plethora of cleaning products, bath salts, deodorants, and aerosol sprays. The medicine cabinet contains all the prescription and over-the-counter medications a teen can abuse.
A Startling Reality
Prescription medications are often abused by teenagers because they are easy to come by. A 2009 Centers for Disease Control survey found that 20 percent of teenagers have taken prescription drugs without a prescription. They often do so because they think prescription medications are less addictive and safer than street drugs. It’s also not a crime to take prescription drugs.
Commonly Abused Prescriptions
The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into these categories: Depressants, Opioids, and Stimulants.
- Depressants: These are drugs that are used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, sleep disorders, and relieve tension. Central nervous system depressants work by slowing down the brain’s activity by increasing the GABA neurotransmitter’s activity. The result is a calm, drowsy feeling.
- Barbiturates (Nembutal, Brevital, Amobarbital, Phenobarbital)
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax)
- Opioids: These drugs attach themselves to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. They are medically used to treat pain and relieve coughs.
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Meperidine (Demerol)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Stimulants: Stimulants work by increasing the brain’s activity, giving the person an increased attention, energy, and alertness. Children are often already prescribed these medications to treat ADHD.
- Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Metadate, Methylin, Concerta)
Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse
- Dilated pupils
- Slurred speech
- Relaxed muscles, fatigue, and loss of motor coordination
- Acting intoxicated
- Sedation, dizziness, drowsiness
- Confusion and irritability
If you suspect your child or teenager is abusing prescription drugs or abusing household products, seek medical help immediately. An overuse of inhalants or prescription drugs can cause hearing loss, seizures, bone marrow damage, organ damage, coma, and death.
Prevent drug abuse by keeping the communication lines open. Know the signs and symptoms but talk to your kids about drugs, and do it early. Most children and teenagers begin using household drugs at an earlier age than those who seek out marijuana and other illegal drugs, and most do so innocently. Informing them early of the hazards associated with drug use is the best method of prevention.