National Inhalant and Poison Awareness Week came and went last week and you may or may not have heard about it, depending on the area in which you live. While it may not be as popular as something like Red Ribbon Week, this awareness event is an important campaign to educate people about a dangerous trend.
Local Awareness Activities
Last year, National Inhalant and Poison Awareness Week (NIPAW) enlisted the participation of 2,000 organizations across the country. Sponsors included state governing agencies, civic and voluntary organizations, schools, medical communities, faith communities, and TV and radio stations. A wide variety of activities are organized every year, but most are educational seminars or trainings to make people aware of the dangers of inhalant abuse, and also the signs that someone is abusing inhalants.
Huffing Among Teens
Inhalant abuse, or huffing, is a big problem among young people today. Many adolescents may be too cautious to try illegal drugs, but they see no harm in huffing legal household items. In fact, one in five students will have gotten high on an inhalant by the time they are in 8th grade. Not only do inhalants seem harmless to kids because they are legal, but they are cheap and easily accessible. Items such as hair spray, gasoline, glue, and air fresheners can be found in nearly every house or garage in America, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep these items out of the hands of young people wanting to get high.
Dangers of Inhalants
Events like NIPAW work to tell of the dangers of inhalant abuse, because while it may be impossible to keep household toxins away from all our teens, we can educate them on the dangers of huffing. The dangers of inhalant abuse are often misunderstood by both teens and their parents. These are toxins, and they cause damage to the brain. Seizure, damage to the lungs, liver, and kidneys, and asphyxiation are all possible with huffing. Inhalants also carry with them the risk of sudden sniffing death, and anyone who huffs could die from this sudden, fatal heart arrhythmia. Sudden sniffing death can happen the very first time someone huffs, or it could happen after they’ve been doing it for some time – there is no way to predict it.
“Just a single session of repeated inhalations can cause permanent organ damage or death,” according to NIDA Acting Deputy Director Dr. David Shurtleff. “Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. Given the wide availability of these substances and the severe health consequences they can produce, inhalant abuse is a serious problem.” (1)
As we learned during NIPAW, parents need to know more about inhalant abuse so that they can talk to their kids about it. Some parents may choose to get rid of or lock up all household items that could be inhaled, but kids are good at finding things their parents miss. Therefore, every parent should teach their kids about the dangers of huffing, and be watchful of what their children are doing.