Teen Inhalant Abuse: The Dangers of Your Own Home

As a parent, you might fear that your teen would use drugs like marijuana, alcohol, or methamphetamines. But you may not realize that there are dangers in your own home that could be risky for teens and could lead to teen inhalant abuse. Although it sounds odd, household products such as glues, hair sprays, paints and lighter fluid can be used as a means for teens to get high. Although inhalants are not considered a recreational drug, they produce the same effect: it’s a way for teens to alter their experience.


Teens are naturally curious. They are exploring life, looking for ways to see it differently, and finding a way to fit into life that’s authentic for them. Part of their exploration is with drugs and other substances that affect their perception of the world. Some adolescents might be looking for a quick high and choose to use solvents or inhalants around the house. Although they are legal, they can be extremely dangerous, even leading to death with the first use. Solvents, paints, and fuels are likely substances found in the garages of most homes. Different forms of inhalants used to get high include glue, gasoline, nail polish remover, shoe polish, paint and paint thinner, aerosol products, and correction fluid. The effects of inhaling these products can last from 15-30 minutes and create a feeling of euphoria. However, damaging effects include a rapid heart rate, central nervous system problems, spasms in limbs, brain damage, and hearing loss. Although these can result in those who use inhalants regularly, they can also appear after first time use.


It’s important that parents continue to discuss with their children the dangers of risky behavior. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is an organization that protects America from healthy, safety, and security threats. Among their many tasks and large-scale projects, they maintain research and health statistics on adolescents. Their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System monitors six priority health-risk behaviors that play a role in the causes of death, disability, and social problems. One of those risky behaviors is the use of alcohol and drugs. Risky behaviors related to alcohol or drug use include having at least one drink during their lifetime, currently drinking on a regular basis, having five or more drinks in a row (binge drinking experiences), and trying other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, steroids, prescription drugs, and inhalants.


An estimated 1.0 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 (4.1 percent) used an inhalant in the past year. The use of these drugs isn’t discussed regularly in the media, in school, or at home. However, they are being abused by teens, leading to severe consequences including death. Communicating with your child about these, and other drugs, is worth any discomfort either of you might feel during such a conversation. Not talking to your teen about drug use is as dangerous as your child using them.


In fact, both parents and kids need to know the dangers of using inhalants and teen inhalant abuse. The vapors from these products can create serious health problems. Even inhaling once can disrupt heart rhythms and lower oxygen levels. Either of these can cause death. Regular abuse can result in serious harm to the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver. As mentioned above, using inhalants can also lead to death.


Because of this, the necessity for discussing the dangers of drug use is high. As a parent, if you’re uncomfortable discussing this topic with your children, seek the professional assistance of a mental health professional.