Baton Rouge – One of the most popular ways for teenagers to get high isn’t sold on the streets – it’s available under the kitchen sink, in the medicine cabinet and in the garage.
A Louisiana Communities that Care Survey showed that many adolescents use inhalants, chemical vapors intaken through the nose or mouth, to induce mind-altering, psychoactive effects. Nationally, the only drug more popular among people in this age group is marijuana.
The Department of Health and Hospitals’ Office for Addictive Disorders is spending the 11th National Inhalant and Poison Awareness Week, March 17-23, making more people aware of the hidden dangers and side effects of inhalants.
"The danger inhalants pose is that they are readily available at home, in schools and in grocery or hardware stores," said LDH Secretary David W. Hood. "We can spend this week helping parents to become more aware of what their child may be doing and encouraging them to work toward prevention."
There are more than 1,000 common products that can be abused as inhalants, including spray paint, nail polish and white-out correction fluid. Nearly one in five children has inhaled fumes from these types of products by the time he or she reaches eighth grade.
Children who regularly abuse inhalants often experience chronic problems in school, such as failing grades and chronic absences. Physical symptoms of inhalant use include red or runny eyes and nose, chemical odors on the breath and a drunk, dizzy or dazed appearance. Each use can be fatal due to Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, which causes sudden and unexpected changes in heart rhythm. The toxins in these inhalants also can damage the liver, lungs, kidneys and nervous system.
"Although drug and alcohol abuse are well-recognized problems, parents, doctors and counselors often do not recognize inhalant abuse or know how to deal with it," said Office of Addictive Disorders Assistant Secretary Mike Duffy. "Mental health and substance abuse organizations have become more dedicated in recent years to raising awareness of the problem so we can help parents protect their children."
For more information on inhalant abuse and how to prevent it, please go to www.inhalant.org, or call your local OAD office. For a listing of regional OAD contact information, go to http://www.dhh.state.la.us/OADA/index.htm