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Household inhalant abuse among children is up



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SALT LAKE CITY -- While drug abuse is a concern among parents, they often ignore the dangers of common household products like aerosol hairspray, shoe polish and glue. More and more kids are inhaling these products to get high, and now the fear is that younger children are doing it as well.

"The products that are used are everyday products that might be in the home: computer dust-off spray that cleans off keyboards, Reddi Whip in the fridge, correction fluid, shoe polish, glue," says Marty Malheiro, spokeswoman for the Utah Poison Control Center. [CLICK HERE to see a list of other commonly abused inhalants]

Malheiro coordinates poison prevention education throughout the state of Utah. In a recent presentation, she expressed her concern about inhalant abuse in elementary-age kids.

**Recognizing inhalant abuse**
• Chemical odors on breath or clothing • Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothes • Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing • Drunk or disoriented appearance • Slurred speech • Nausea or loss of appetite • Inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression - *[National Institute on Drug Abuse](http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/RRInhalants.pdf)*
**How inhalants are used**
Inhalants can be breathed in through the nose or the mouth in a variety of ways, such as: • "Sniffing" or "snorting" from containers • Spraying aerosols directly into the nose or mouth • "Bagging"—sniffing or inhaling fumes from substances sprayed or put inside a plastic or paper bag • "Huffing" from an inhalant-soaked rag stuffed in the mouth • Inhaling from balloons filled with nitrous oxide - *[National Institute on Drug Abuse](http://www.nida.nih.gov/PDF/RRInhalants.pdf)*
"The research indicates it starts as early as fourth or fifth grade. It does level off at about eighth greate, but the research also shows that those kids have traded inhalants that are not quite as trippy feeling for more harder substances," Malheiro says. According to a survey done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 17.3 percent of eight graders have abused inhalants. That means those students are breathing chemical vapors or gases that can potentially cause liver, heart and brain damage.

"Chronic users have all kinds of multi-organ toxicity system failures and brain dysfunctions," The long-term effect of inhalant abuse is extremely serious."

Malherio says to prevent abuse, talk to your kids about inhalants. With younger kids, she suggests you let them know about the household chemicals you're using and why they're bad to breathe. With teenagers, she says, be strait forward about the issue.

"I'm a big fan of being honest and asking your kids openly: Did you know about this? Are you involved with this? Share the information, Malheiro says.

When it comes to parents, Malherio says they too need to take responsibility. She says parents need to check their household products to see if a lot suddenly goes missing and replace potential aerosol inhalants with liquid ones.

E-mail: spark@ksl.com

Shara Park

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