December 10th, 2014
A notMYkid Women's Auxiliary Board Exclusive

While many parents are aware of and informed about the dangers of illicit drugs, the potentially deadly effects of common household products often remain overlooked. Items like spray paint, adhesives, gasoline, cleaning fluids, nail polish remover, and markers aren't typically taken intro consideration because they were never intended to be used as drugs. However, inhaling the vapors from these and many other products can result in a powerful and potentially fatal intoxication.

These products are abused through various means, including "huffing" an inhalant-soaked rag, breathing fumes sprayed inside a plastic bag (known as "bagging"), or inhaling the fumes directly from a canister. Within seconds of inhalation, the chemicals are absorbed, producing rapid intoxication. Effects include euphoria, dizziness, slurred speech, loss of motor control, and hallucinations.

High School Inhalant Abuse Graph from National Institute on Drug Abuse

Due to the short duration of effects, inhalant abusers often attempt to extend the high by continuing to inhale over an extended period of time. With continued inhalations, the abuser can lose consciousness and the result can be fatal.  According to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 22% of the individuals who died from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome had no history of previous inhalant abuse.

Warning signs to look for include evidence of the physical symptoms mentioned above, bloodshot eyes, runny nose, spots or sores around the mouth, unusual chemical odor on breath or clothing, stains from paint or other products around the mouth, nose, or fingers, nausea, loss of appetite, possession of chemical-soaked rags, and possession of potential inhalants for which the child does not have a legitimate use.

If you have discovered inhalant abuse in a child or family member, it is important to act quickly.  If the individual is currently intoxicated by inhalants, seek medical attention immediately, and do not leave them alone.  Attempt to find out what particular inhalant was abused, in order to better inform the medical professionals administering treatment.  Following medical treatment, it is crucial to seek professional counseling for the individual who has been abusing inhalants.      

Used nitrous oxide cartridges or "Whip-Its" found on the side of a local street 

Recently, notMYkid Co-Founder Debbie Moak began noticing a pile of used nitrous oxide cartridges or "Whip-Its" accumulating on the side of a road in an affluent area of town.  Over the course of a week, she collected 40 used cartridges, including one that was wrapped up in a high school class schedule.

She brought the collected cartridges to a meeting of notMYkid's Women's Auxiliary Board to share her findings with the members.  A number of attendees were unfamiliar with Whip-Its, their use and effects, and the wide range of inhalants that are often abused.  Others were surprised to hear of where the empty cartridges were found.  

However, like substance abuse in general, inhalant abuse reaches across all demographics.  As with any other substance of abuse, awareness of the symptoms, effects, and dangers of inhalants is key to preventing and combating their abuse.  We encourage you to forward this information to others, including parents, grandparents, and educators.  Knowledge is power.
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