If your teenager decides to experiment with drugs, their first high may not come from illicit drugs, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or marijuana. It may be something completely unexpected; the white out on your desk, or the paint thinner in your utility closet.
Abuse of common household products by teens and pre-teens has steadily increased since the 1980’s. This is because paint thinner, spray paint, solvents, rubber glue, and household cleaners are far more accessible and inexpensive than prescription or illegal drugs. These products are more likely to be abused by kids in the 12-17 year age range group because they can easily get them at home or purchase them at any grocery store.
Generally household inhalants are the first items teens use to get high; these kids are also more likely to try illicit drugs, such as meth, cocaine, and marijuana according to health experts (Health A to Z).
There are more than 1000 household products that teens can use to get high. Some of these products include: typewriter correction fluid, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane, cooking spray, various types of glue, gasoline, deodorant spray, fabric protector spray, whipping cream aerosols, hair spray, and household cleaners. Not only are these items available in the home, teens can walk into any grocery store, hardware store, or pharmacy and purchase them with no questions asked.
Teens who abuse household products commonly “sniff” them through the nose or mouth, either by snorting fumes from containers or spraying aerosols directly into the nose or mouth. They may also “huff” these products by soaking towels or rags and pressing the rags to their mouths. Another method is “bagging,” where the fumes from chemicals are poured into plastic or paper bags and then inhaled.
Teens who abuse common household products often look and act as if they are intoxicated from drinking alcohol. Signs of abuse include:
∑ Loss of inhibitions
∑ Excitation followed by drowsiness
∑ Slurred speech
∑ Hallucinations or delusions
Many of these users continue to sniff or huff in order to prolong the high. This can lead to loss of consciousness and even death (Mayo Clinic.com). Teenagers can die anytime they abuse household products – even the first time. This is called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. Those who don’t die may become brain damaged or suffer kidney failure.
Parents should be aware of the following warning signs: glassy/glazed eyes, loss of appetite, chemical smells coming from their child’s breath or clothing, signs of paint or other products on the face or fingers, and missing household products. If you suspect your child is abusing household products, seek professional help immediately. Educating parents and children about the dangers of sniffing chemicals is the most effective prevention tool. Open discussion now can help prevent a tragedy in the future (Signs of Inhalant Abuse).
“Household Inhalants Pose Danger” Health A to Z. April 2004. 18 Aug. 2005
“Inhalant Abuse in Children” Mayo Clinic.com. 30 Dec. 2003. 18 Aug. 2005
“Signs of Inhalant Abuse” Frequently asked Questions about Inhalant Abuse. 2005.
18 Aug. 2005 http://www.inhalant.org/faq.html