Huffing is a colloquial term for inhalant abuse. It is a type of substance misuse that involves getting “high” by inhaling the chemicals found in everyday household items. The noxious vapour given off by solvent-based products like paint, glue, petrol, and marker pens; or the gas produced in aerosols cans such as spray paint, hairspray, deodorant, and even whipped cream. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and amyl nitrate (poppers) are also classed as inhalants and have surged in popularity in recent years.
Also sometimes called sniffing, or bagging (depending on the method and/or product used); the practice can have severe consequences and is the root cause in the accidental death of numerous teenagers and young adults each year.
The inhaled substances are rapidly absorbed into the brain, producing an immediate high. In the short-term users participate to experience euphoria, intoxication, hallucinations, but it can also cause nausea, vomiting, and breathing problems.
Chronic abuse of inhalants can result in irreversible side effects, such as coma and death. It can end with psychosis, hypoxia (lack of oxygen), heart failure, pneumonia and lung problems, choking or aspiration, and brain damage.
As with any recreational drug use, a lack of inhibition can lead to the participation in risky or dangerous behaviour. This is particularly true for motor vehicle accidents – due to driving whilst under the influence or getting in a car with someone else who is impaired; jumping or falling from buildings, bridges, or other high places; being the victim of sexual or violent assault.
Common amongst teenagers and adolescents, inhalant abuse is most prevalent around the ages of 14 and 15 years old. However, abuse has been seen in children as young as 5. It usually declines after the age of 18, except in those individuals without access to other types of drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication.
As with any type of drug abuse there is no single reason why someone starts to use substances. It could be to fit in with their peer group or friends; because they enjoy it; to improve their mood; to relax; to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety; or to manage either physical or emotional pain.
Higher rates of inhalant abuse have been found in those with –
• A history of abuse, physical or sexual.
• Family issues.
• Delinquent, anti-social, or criminal behaviour.
• Mental health issues, including depression and suicidal ideology or attempts.
• Other substance abuse (drugs or alcohol).
It is also more common in areas of high unemployment and low income because it is cheap and easily attainable.
Substance misuse is one of the biggest risks to a young person’s health and growth – both mental and physical. Since a teenager’s brain is still developing, drug use can have long-term effects on their cognitive and social abilities. The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for skills such as planning, prioritising, and impulse control, is one of the last brain regions to mature, which happens around the mid to late 20s.
The effects of huffing paint, sniffing glue, and any other form of solvent or inhalant abuse, can range from an inebriated state, through to vivid, dark, haunted, or terrifying hallucinations.
Symptoms can include –
• Intoxication (as simulated with alcohol use).
• Intense euphoria.
• Loss of coordination.
• Slurred speech.
• Feeling dizzy or lightheaded.
• Reduced inhibitions.
• Moodiness and irritability.
• Hallucinations and/or visions.
Other signs may comprise of –
• Paint/glue/solvents on face or clothing.
• A chemical odour on the person or their belongings. Coming out in sweat, through breath, or attached to clothing.
• Paraphernalia related to inhalant abuse, such as soaked rags, solvent-filled bags, empty aerosols; hidden in personal spaces, or secreted at the bottom of rubbish bins.
• Missing paint cans, spray cans, lighter fuel, or other household chemicals.
• Unusual trips to hardware stores.
• An outbreak of sores around the nose and mouth, typically referred to as a “glue sniffers rash”.
• Participation in risky or dangerous behaviour. (Example: Driving whilst under the influence).
If you or someone you love is huffing, you need to understand that the practice is highly dangerous, can have serious consequences in both the short and long term; and addiction is possible.
Long-term and excessive use of any substance can result in dependency and addiction. It does not recognise age, class, race, or gender, and can grasp hold of anyone, at any time. Nobody chooses to be an addict, and there is no single reason why someone becomes one.
If you think you, or someone you love, may have a problem, then it is a good idea to speak with a qualified addiction specialist, or medical professional, to understand your drug misuse and consider what addiction treatment may be required and available.
Here at our luxury rehabilitation centre, set on the beautiful Spanish island of Ibiza, we have a highly qualified team, experienced in a range of therapies for the treatment of drug, alcohol and prescription medicine abuse and dependency. We also treat all forms of substance and process addiction, anxiety, depression, trauma, and other conditions affecting mental health.
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