treatment for teens addicted to huffing

20% of All Eighth Graders Have Tried Huffing

Inhalants are addictive and are often a “gateway” drug to illegal drug and alcohol abuse

Is Your Teenager Using Inhalants or Huffing?

October 20, 2015

Using chemical inhalants to achieve a feeling of euphoria is commonly called huffing. There are thousands of common products that can be used as inhalants. Huffing can lead to addiction, permanent brain damage and sudden death.

“Kyle knew never to do drugs. He just didn’t know not to do this,” according to Jeff Williams, a decorated police officer, and his wife, Kathy, a nurse. The family pet was a retired drug K9. Their home was an impenetrable fortress to drugs. Their three children were safe. On a typical morning in 2005, Kathy entered their 14-year-old son Kyle’s room to wake him up for school to find him sitting up in bed, dead. A thin red straw still hung in his mouth.

Kyle died while using a can of seemingly harmless computer duster to inhale or huff the propellant inside the can. His autopsy revealed that the only chemical in his system was the propellant used in the duster can.

The Williams family had been unaware of this deadly trend and in the months that followed their own tragedy, they were alarmed to learn of the frequency of inhalant abuse, especially in young people. In a brave and cathartic move, Jeff wrote an email that became widely circulated on the Internet, appearing on urban legend and parenting sites alike.

Charles Lee, M.D. has worked with struggling teens since co-founding The Pinnacle Schools and its residential program, the Elk River Treatment Program. Dr. Lee emphasizes the dangers of inhalant abuse/huffing to the families of his patients. “Huffing has quickly become a very popular and very deadly way to get high. Kids are often attracted to it because of the availability of common household products. What makes huffing so dangerous is that it’s easy, it’s cheap and the products are legal.”

The National Survey on Drug and Health reports that in 2008 two million Americans age 12 and older had abused inhalants. The high lasts only moments, and the chemicals do not show up on drug tests so parents have difficulty combating inhalant abuse. Even a single use has fatal potential. The chemicals in products used may disrupt heart rhythms and cause cardiac arrest, or lower oxygen levels enough to cause suffocation.

The effects of huffing look similar to alcohol intoxication, including slurred speech and disorientation. Parents should be on the lookout for nausea and decrease in appetite, sores or rash around the nose and mouth, chemical smells on child’s breath, and complaints of a sore tongue (this is due to frostbite caused by the propellants in some aerosols). Long term use can cause damage to the lungs, liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

For more information on teenage huffing, visit inhalant.org.

Common Questions Parents Ask About Huffing

Q. What type of chemicals are children huffing

A. There are more the 1,400 common household and commercial products that are used for the purpose of getting high. Most are chemicals that are easily found at home or in the convenience store such as: paint, glue, butane, cooking spray, felt tip markers, propane, and gasoline just to name a few.

Q. What can happen to children who abuse inhalants?

A. Inhalants are extremely dangerous and children can receive brain damage or die anytime they use an inhalant, including the very first time. Death often occurs through Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, choking, and suffocation.