Dangers of Huffing

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.  Perhaps it has drifted across your inbox.  It's true, all of it. 

Charles Lee, M.D., Medical Director of the programs of the Elk River Treatment Program of The Pinnacle Schools, 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, visit www.inhalant.org