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Dangers of inhalants

March 27, 2013

By KELLY SICKAFOOSE
Executive Director
Substance Abuse Awareness Council
(260) 724-5368
    In recognition of National Inhalants and Poison Prevention Week, March 17–23, the Substance Abuse Awareness Council is alerting the public about the dangers of inhalants and ways to prevent childhood poisoning.
    Youth in our community, even those in middle school, are using inhalants to get high. They are so dangerous that “sudden sniffing death” can result after a single session of inhalant use.
    A variety of cleaning and other products found in the home contain substances that can be inhaled, such as whipped cream dispensers, keyboard cleaner, gas, paint, markers, white-out, cooking sprays, etc. Many young people do not even think of these products as drugs because they were never meant to be used to achieve an intoxicating effect.
    After the use of an inhalant, a user may feel slightly stimulated. Repeated inhalations make them feel less inhibited and less in control. If use continues, users can lose consciousness. High concentration of inhalants can cause death from suffocation by displacing oxygen in the lungs and then in the central nervous system so that breathing stops. 
    Deliberately inhaling from a paper or plastic bag or in a closed area greatly increases the chances of suffocation. Chronic abuse of inhalants can cause severe long-term damage to the brain, the liver, and the kidneys. Specific effects include hearing loss, limb spasms, bone marrow damage, and blood oxygen depletion.
    Even when using aerosols or volatile products for legitimate purposes (painting, cleaning) it is wise to do so in a well-ventilated room or outdoors.

    A poison in some homes is cigarettes, cigarette butts, or other tobacco products. In 2010, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) received more than 7,428 reports of potentially toxic exposures to tobacco products among children younger than 6 years of age in the United States. Most cases of nicotine poisoning among children result from their ingestion of cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
    While minor toxic effects may occur — such as vomiting, nausea, lethargy, gagging, and a pale appearance — severe toxicity among children who ingested cigarettes, cigarette butts, or snuff, include depressed respiration, cardiac arrhythmia, and convulsions. If ingestion does occur, a poison-control center should be consulted to assess the risks for serious toxicity and determine treatment.
In addition to preventing nicotine poisonings, avoiding the use of tobacco products in the presence of children should:
    Decrease the risk for lower respiratory and middle ear infections in children;
    Decrease the risk that children will smoke in the future; and
    Decrease children's access to lit cigarettes, matches, and cigarette lighters, thereby reducing fires started by children — a leading cause of fire-related deaths among children younger than 5 years of age.
    Parents and guardians who want to quit should seek health care advice or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

    For more information, visit our website at www.adamscountysaac.com.

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