Last updated: September 06. 2013 8:29PM - 782 Views

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Inhalant abuse, commonly called “huffing,” is the purposeful inhalation of chemical vapors to obtain a high. Inhalant abusers will often use household chemicals to obtain their high. The inhalant problem came to public attention in the 1950s when news media began reporting on young people sniffing model airplane glue to get a cheap high. Since then, young people have discovered most any household chemical — from nail polish remover to air fresheners — can give them the euphoric effect they are seeking.

A common misconception about inhalant abuse is that it is an experimental and childish fad. But inhalant abuse is a serious problem and one of the most dangerous of the so-called “experimental behaviors.” Sniffing chemical vapors can starve the body of oxygen which can lead to severe brain damage and damage to the nervous system. Many “huffers” die the very first time they use inhalants because they have replaced the oxygen in their lungs with the chemical vapors and depleted the oxygen in the blood stream. Many others have suffocated to death by placing a plastic bag over their head and then passing out from inhaling the vapors.

Most of us understand the dangers of inhaling harmful chemical vapors but do not understand its seriousness. We have all probably at one time or another taken a balloon filled with helium and sucked in some of the gas so we can make our friends and family laugh at our high squeaky voice, and may have even allowed our kids to do the same. The worst side effect we experienced from this practice might be slight light headedness or maybe even a slight headache. The risks we take doing this are very low and any serious harmful effects are very rare. There is a newer trend of inhaling helium with deadly results.

Teens are now huffing helium directly from the pressurized tanks that balloon and party stores use to fill balloons. Breathing in pure helium can deprive the lungs of oxygen or can cause hemorrhaging in the lungs and breathing in the gas from a high pressure tank can cause the lungs to burst. Medical experts report there have been cases where helium bubbles have gotten into the arteries that lead to the brain, causing stroke-like symptoms and sometimes death.

The dangers of inhaling a small amount of helium gas from a balloon are very minimal and our voice does sound funny after the gas is inhaled. But, if our kids see us inhaling the gas with no side effects they will believe the gas is safe. Talk to your kids about the dangers and set a good example by not sucking in the gas from a balloon, and help keep our kids safe.

Keeping Our Kids Safe is brought to by the Delaware Police Department and School Resource Officer Rod Glazer.

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