You don’t have to worry about your children, spouse, siblings, employees or bodyguards seeking out a pusher from whom they can buy cocaine, heroin or crystal meth. All it takes to get high as a kite is to walk into any Wal-Mart, Target or grocery store and for just a few dollars an addict or junkie has at his disposal over a thousand different products on which they get everything from a buzz to hallucinatory euphoria. The Clash once sang about getting lost in the supermarket, but for millions of Americans the supermarket is the druggie’s equivalent of being locked in a candy store.
The candy in this case are inhalants. Instead of items with names like Hershey, Skittles and Whatchamacallit, the lure for those who would love nothing better than 8 hours of unsupervised activity inside a Kroger’s or Safeway are items with names like paint thinner, felt-tip markers, deodorants, whipped-cream cans and the seemingly benign and iconically American consumer product known as room deodorizers. In other words, inhalants.
As you may already have guessed, most abusers of inhalants don’t even have to get locked inside a supermarket. Once the parent or children or brothers or boss has left the premises, most homes and many places of business can become a candy factory in itself. Although you can never tell who is using inhalants to reach that much-desired experience of euphoria, a study conducted in 2004 by Monitoring the Future revealed that the age group most likely to turn to inhalants as a means of drug abuse were those between 12 and 14.
The abuse of inhalants can be accomplished in a number of different ways. When inhaled through the nose it is known as sniffing. When inhaled through the mouth it is known as huffing. The delivery of the chemical ingredients that result in the feelings of euphoria can be taken in directly from the product’s container or by a means known as bagging in that involves holding a plastic bag filled with the dangerous fumes over the mouth and nose or by spraying the fumes onto a cloth that is held against the nose and mouth. Still another way to invisibly get high from inhalants while engaging in activities like sitting in class or in the workplace or just sitting at the family table eating dinner is to get the inhalant material onto your clothing so that you can subtly sniff them over an extended period of time.
What is the ultimate purpose of abusing inhalants? Good question. As with so many drugs, the answer seems entirely implausible to those who have never abused drugs. The initial experience brings on a profound sense of euphoria that just makes you feel really good and gets rid of any bad or negative feelings that have been haunting you. With each successive attempt that spurs the abuser to push the envelope as a result of getting past any kind of intuitive trepidation, the mind feels stimulated and inhibitions fall apart. The lack of inhibition in turn frees the user to engage in behavior that normal thought patterns would disallow. The use of nitrates like those found in room deodorizers are particularly effective at lowering one’s sexual inhibition, leading to irresponsible, promiscuous and potentially threatening sexual behavior.
What are the outcomes of abusing inhalants that defeat their purpose? Irreversible brain damage is almost always the result of long term and acute abuse of inhalants. The brain activities most commonly affected are those related to physical coordination and high level cognitive functioning. It is not uncommon for high performing and even gifted students to spiral from the heights of academic achievement to nearly remedial level necessity as a result of cognitive dysfunction directly related to inhalant abuse. The damage done to other organs is dependent upon the preferred product utilized for abuse. Sniffing glue or gas fumes, for instance, can sometimes lead to liver and kidney problems.
The ultimate unfortunate outcome of inhalant abuse is death. Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome is strongly linked to abuse of products containing butane or propane. Death from inhalant abuse can also be caused by asphyxiation, especially when the method of delivery involves pulling a plastic bag down over the head.
The best tactic to take if you are a parent who suspects your child is abusing inhalants is to regularly check household products that may be utilized for such a purpose to determine if their contents do not correlate with their intended use. In other words, be aware of how often your family seems to go through degreasers, butane lighters, spray paint or deodorants. If you already have evidence of abuse by your children, get familiar with all household products that are available for abuse and secure them behind locked doors while keeping the key to the lock with your at all times.