Huffing becoming more popular

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A young man drives down the highway. He comes from a good home. He's a popular athlete that makes good grades and is respected among his peers. He's never acted out, never been in trouble.

However, today as he drives he is huffing an inhalant.

As he inhales the fumes, he becomes light-headed and his body grows numb.

Then, while he is still driving his vehicle through traffic, the young man passes out.

As he loses consciousness, his foot rests on the gas pedal; continually gaining speed the car veers to the right, goes off the shoulder of the road and collides into a tree.

The young man is bruised and sore with some minor cuts, but he survives. The people traveling alongside his vehicle do not.

An incident similar to this scenario recently occurred in Horseshoe Bend. Though no one was killed the young driver did come close to striking a vehicle.

"It's not something we thought about, but it made us aware of the problem (huffing)," said Horsheshoe Bend Police Chief Fred Mitchell. Mitchell said he wanted to alert the surrounding communities of this often overlooked problem.

Huffing is the deliberate inhalation of vapors or gases to reach a high. The high often causes the user to be stimulated as he/she begins to feel detached from their environment. Individuals sometimes become light-headed and lose inhibitions, according to the National Inhalation Prevention Coalition.

Repeated huffing causes damage to the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and bone marrow.

Regular huffers might gradually lose their coordination, suffer severe mood swings and develop red sores around their mouth and nose.

Despite the potential dangers of inhalants, they are not illegal; in fact, they are cheap and easy to obtain -- you probably have some in your home.

Inhalants are not drugs. They are typical household items -- correction fluid, rubber cement, air duster, spray paint, glue, etc.

Because inhalants are so accessible, huffing is growing in popularity, especially among young teenagers. According to a national survey conducted by, by the time a student reaches the 8th grade, on in five will have experimented with huffing.

The same survey concluded that socioeconomic placement has little effect on whether or not a young person might sniff inhalants.

Huffing is just as common within upper and upper-middle class families as it is in poor families.

Though it is most common among white males between the ages 12 and 17, inhalant abuse does not discriminate against age, gender or ethnicities.

"The thing that struck me is that parents don't think kids would abuse this stuff, but they do. It's a definite problem," Mitchell said.

For more information on this growing trend go online to or www.usdoj,gov.

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