What parents need to know about huffing—the danger of household inhalants
They can die with the first try. Read that sentence again, slower this time, understanding every single word. THEY CAN DIE WITH THE FIRST TRY!
So many parents do not begin to understand the dangers of the new trend of “huffing” that many teens engage in today. In fact, it is also probably safe to say that most parents don’t even know what huffing is. Well, the single most matter of fact explanation I can offer is to say that huffing is the process of inhaling any aerosol product they can from a plastic bag.
Parents may be almost positive that their children aren’t drinking or experimenting with drugs but many parents don’t realize that huffing is a similar behavior. And, for all the parents that are “almost positive that their kids aren’t engaging in those behaviors,” one out of every five junior high students report that they have indeed “huffed” at least once.
Many parents have discovered that their child tried huffing by monitoring their online conversations with internet monitoring software like PC Tattletale. But most parents, never find out until its too late and the damage is done.
Many parents and others question how it is done. Well, it is relatively simple. Kids, even between the ages of 12 and 14 have no trouble gaining access to commercial room deodorizers, paints, glues or a variety of aerosol products. Any one of these products, or a combination of them, sprayed in a plastic baggie, perhaps even a latex balloon, makes the perfect huffing paraphernalia.
The kids place their mouth/nose inside the opening and they inhale, or “huff,” the vapors now in the plastic receptacle and wait. After inhaling, they hold their breath and in no time, they experience a rush like no other feeling they have ever had.
Their senses are stimulated in a way they have never been stimulated before. Another huff of the fumes in the bag and now, the teen is in an almost euphoric state. A little more huffing causes a little more of a rush; a high; something that they must have. But one more time may be the one time that causes a cardiac arrest.
As with any other drug that causes immediate addiction, huffing, too draws these kids back time and time again. They justify that they are not actually doing drugs; when in fact, they are. The chemicals in these products that are repeatedly huffed are some of the worst drugs!
Because of the immediate need for more, parents may start to see some of the same signs in their teens that they would with any other illegal drug or alcohol abuse.
The teens become more withdrawn; have a change in friends; have dramatic changes in their grades at school; and seem more detached. They may also see significant physical changes, too, such as memory loss or hearing loss that can lead to permanent and irreversible brain damage.
Children who abuse these products through huffing will ultimately have other physical problems, too, like permanent damage to major organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, and ultimately, liver damage.
Seemingly, we focus on adolescents and teens when it comes to those who choose to engage in huffing. However, more and more, we are seeing usage in children as young as 6 years old.
Perhaps it is quite innocent and even accidental at this age but once it has happened, even the younger children seek out huffing opportunities.
Well, so what is a parent to do?
Our world doesn’t allow us to be completely free of all aerosol products. Some of them are almost must-haves in most homes. Since that is the case, the first obvious state would be to place these products out of reach and in a locked cabinet that the kids have ZERO access to. Make sure the supply is unchanged on a regular basis and be sure to put these items back where you got them after they have been in use.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, all of the things we have discussed are important but the single best way to prevent huffing of these products is to sit down and have an open and honest, age appropriate dialogue with your children, at a young age. Explain that these products have to be handled by an adult and that even adults must be very careful when using them and storing them. Make sure they understand and verbalize that to you!
Go further by explaining that all of these rules and standards are the same at other people’s house, too. These are potentially poisonous products and they should be avoided at all costs, until Mom and Dad decide they are old enough and then, they will have to be supervised with them.
Just remind them that their safety is your job and this is one more way to show them how much you love them. At the right age, explain to them that some kids may want to tempt them to huff with them. And, reinforce to them that “just saying NO” is still the right answer.
Love them and protect them and do not hesitate to have this conversation with them! Over and over and over again, if that is what it takes! And above all, remind them that “they can die with the first try.” You won’t go wrong if you talk to them.