Inhalant abuse is a “silent epidemic” because most people do not know about the dangers of inhalants, and abuse often goes unnoticed. In Oklahoma, the number of youths abusing inhalants surpasses the national average.
The Oklahoma Poison Control Center wants you to be aware of these dangers, and offers the following tips aimed at preventing inhalants from becoming an epidemic that infects your home.
• Inhalants can be found in homes, schools and offices. More than 1,000 products can be inhaled for intoxicating effects. They are readily available, low-cost and rarely thought of as poisonous. First, be aware that they exist.
• Common inhalants include gasoline, paint remover, glue, typewriter correction fluid, markers, spray paint, room deodorizers and the gas from whipped cream containers.
• Inhalants provide an immediate “high” that can last one to five minutes, sometimes longer. The effect causes mind-altering effects that may be similar to drinking too much alcohol.
• Tell your children these products can be lethal.
• Abuse of inhalants can cause “sudden sniffing death,” even the first time they are abused. They can lead to irregular rhythms in the heart, which in turn may lead to cardiac arrest. The chemicals can cause suffocation by interfering with breathing or a person could choke. Long-term inhalant abuse may cause the loss of normal function in arms or legs, and loss of bladder and bowel control. Inhalants destroy brain cells. Finally, many of these chemicals are fire hazards and could cause a fire or explosion.
• Signs that your child may be using inhalants include a dazed appearance; chemical smells on the breath, body or clothing; red eyes; runny nose or nose bleeds; personality changes; and slurred speech. Discarded or used paint, spray cans, room deodorizers or other potential inhalant products also may indicate a problem.
• Talk to your kids about inhalant abuse. Tell them inhalants are poison and do not belong in the body, but don’t teach them how to abuse inhalants or show them which products to use. Talk about their “toxic effects” instead of “getting high.” Don’t call them inhalants – call them chemicals or toxins. Not talking to your kids about inhalants could be a fatal mistake.
• For more information about inhalant abuse, call your poison center at 1 (800) 222-1222 or contact the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at www.inhalants.org.
The poison center is staffed 24 hours a day by specially trained pharmacists and registered nurses. The Oklahoma Poison Control Center is a program of the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy at the OU Health Sciences Center.