Inhalant misuse is extremely dangerous!!

Experimenting with inhalants just once can lead to some very serious consequences.  Breathing in gases and vapors causes chemicals to take the place of oxygen in the blood and cause asphyxiation.  It then can cause significant and serious damage to several parts of the body including:

  • InhalantsKidneys
  • Liver
  • Nervous system
  • Lungs
  • Brain

Death can even occur from just one use.  In some cases a young person may have a fatal accident while under the influence of an inhalant.  In other cases a child can choke or suffocate to death, or have a fatal heart attack when using.  It is a very risky behavior.

You don’t need a dealer to get inhalants.

Access is critical when it comes to inhalants.  Unlike marijuana, alcohol, or other illicit drugs, a child doesn’t need to buy from a drug dealer.  The substance is freely available in a cupboard or cabinet at home.  Most children do not understand how dangerous it is to use these substances.  And many adults are not aware and don’t think of inhalant use, and so use may go unnoticed.

Inhalant Use in Androscoggin County

Data from the 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) gives us a view of the problem in Androscoggin County:

  • 9.1% of high school youth in Androscoggin County reported they have used inhalants one or more times in their lifetime.
  • 6.6% of middle school youth in Androscoggin County reported they have used inhalants one ore more times in their lifetime.
  • That represents 347 youth in Androscoggin County who have experimented with inhalants.

Signs and Symptoms of Inhalant Use

There are certain signs, or changes in behavior, you should look for if you suspect a young person may be using inhalants.

  • Changes in attitudes and interests
  • Decline in school performance
  • Disoriented/dazed appearance
  • Slurred speech
  • Chemical odors on child’s clothes, breath, or backpack.

If you are concerned about any of these behaviors in a child, ask about inhalants.  If you have questions or concerns about a specific product you think the youth is using you can call the Northern New England Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.  In an emergency situation, seek immediate help.

Parents have the Power of Prevention

It is important to understand that Inhalants are Poisons.  Inhalant prevention starts early in a child’s life as poison prevention.  Have you ever told a child “Don’t put that in your mouth!  It’s not safe!”  These early messages can go a long way to prevent inhalant abuse.  There are some other simple steps to take to prevent inhalant abuse:

  • Model safe use of household products. If you are using a product with dangerous vapors, make sure you are ventilating the room and using a mask.  Children will see this and understand that this is a dangerous product that needs to be handled in the proper and intended way.
  • Teach poison safety. Teach your children why it is important to use products safely and as they were intended.  For a young child, the main message should be that when products are used incorrectly they can be poisonous and very dangerous.  When talking to an older child about product safety, you shouldn’t talk about what products can be abused and how products produce a “high”.  Don’t talk to children about inhalants as a drug.
  • Monitor household products. Check and monitor your household products on a routine basis.  Be mindful of any sudden drop in the amount of individual products.  Remember, aerosol and solvent-based products should be used by an adult or at the very least under constant adult supervision.  Store inhalable household products in appropriate and secure locations.
  • Buy safe products. Whenever possible, choose safer household products.  Water-based and non-aerosol products are much safer to use and cannot be abused as an inhalant.  If you must have aerosol or solvent-based products, make it a rule of the home that only adults use those products.

Inhalant misuse, addiction, and where to get help.

For some, inhalant misuse can become an addiction.  Young children may just misuse inhalants while older children may misuse inhalants along with other substances like alcohol and other drugs.  If you are concerned a child you know may be addicted to inhalants, or alcohol and other drugs, there are treatment agencies in the community who may be able to help.  Call or visit 211 for information on providers in your area.