Know the Facts:
Inhalants can cause death with just one use. Unfortunately, because many inhalants can be purchased over the counter, the misnomer is that they are not as dangerous as other drugs.
Because they are inexpensive and easily attainable, inhalants are used by a largely young population.
- Approximately 9% of 8th graders, 6% of 10th graders, and 4% of 12th graders have abused inhalants at least one time during their school year.
- Roughly 22 million Americans have admitted to using inhalants at least one time.
- In addition to death, inhalants are the cause of many permanent effects such as brain damage, suffocation, heart failure and deafness.
Warning Signs and Symptoms:
If you are a parent of a young child, it is important to stay alert and be pro-active when it comes to preventing inhalant abuse. Inhalants come in many forms ranging including adhesives, aerosols, cleaners, food products, gases, nitrites and solvents. Many accessible inhalants like whipped cream and hair spray are easy to mistake as just a regular part of your child’s routine. To ensure that you are not missing vital clues, here are some things to look out for:
- Make sure that you are aware of the various forms of inhalants. Just because you see a potential inhalant in your child’s room or on their person does not mean that they are abusing inhalants. However, it should be a red flag and something that you take note of. Keep track of those threats and watch for increased purchases, empty bottles and items that have been moved many times.
- Keep track of what your child is bringing in and out of the house. Be on the lookout for inhalants that pop up in their room, in their book bag or in their clothes.
- Pay attention to any chemical odors on the breath of your child or on the clothes. You may also find chemical stains on the clothes of your child.
- Your child’s academic performance is not as good as it used to be.
- Changes in the way your child is eating as well as when and how much he/she is sleeping.
- Things that used to interest your child, like certain hobbies, sports and even friends, are no longer something that they are attracted to.
- Physical appearance is changed. All kids go through phases. However, you might notice something drastically out of the ordinary. In particular, be on the lookout for glassy, red or watery eyes.
- The personal care habits of your child are slipping. You might notice that your child is not showering or taking care of themselves the way that they used to.
- New friends are hanging around and seem to be a bad influence.
- The general behavior of your child is changing to something less pleasant
Conversation Starters: Products that can be abused are often cheap and common household products. Therefore it is vital that parents discuss the consequences of inhalant abuse. Young children will often comment on the strong smell markers, household cleaners, or other products. This is the perfect time for parents to share with their children that these fumes are dangerous and can make them very sick. Here are some helpful tips
- Start educating your children about inhalants at a young age. Point out all of the household items that are dangerous. Consider labeling many hazardous materials with a “Poison” sticker.
- Educate yourself first. Inhalants come in hundreds of forms and can be used in many ways such as direct mouth contact, huffing through a cloth or using a balloon. Knowing how easy it is to abuse inhalants is a critical step to being able to prevent abuse.
- Keep harmful products out of reach or locked away. If accessibility is granted to these products, it sends the message that they are ok to play with.
- Have family conversations about inhalants, what they are and how dangerous they can be. Do not avoid some of the more intense topics like side effects. Children should be aware that life threatening conditions can occur even from just ONE TIME.
- Setting rules send the message that this is a serious topic and also that you care about the safety of your children. Enforce guidelines that prevent exposure to harmful substances. Your child will respect you for it and eventually will remember the consequences should they get approached about inhalants later on.
If you know that your child is abusing inhalants, the best approach is a calm one. Depending on the severity of your child’s addiction, it is best to contact someone who can help with the situation.
Resources for Help:
www.inhalants.org – Sponsored by the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition
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