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Huffing - Your Last Breath
As a society, we tend to teach the youth about drug related issues involving marijuana, methamphetamine, heroine, cocaine, and prescription drug abuse. While these educational platforms are excellent in teaching the hazards and outcomes, there's one specific drug that we don't seem to focus on. A drug that is readily available in most stores. A drug that anyone can get their hands on.
They come in a variety of forms.
- Liquids - these tend to vaporize at room temperatures. They can be found as gasoline, paint thinners, degreasers, glues, markers, and correction fluids
- Gases - nitrous oxide (or laughing gas), propane tanks, whipped cream dispensers, butane lighters
- Sprays - cooking sprays, hair spray, deodorant, keyboard cleaning spray (canned air), fabric protectors, spray paints
- Nitrites - room deodorizers, often referred to as "poppers" or "snappers"
Have you ever used an inhalant?
Physical Signs of Inhalant Abuse
- Weight loss
Behavioral Signs of Inhalant Abuse
- Lack of money
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Unaware of surroundings
- Hard time communicating
- Hiding rags and other personal articles
- Constantly lifting something to face (sleeve, jacket, sticking nose under clothes)
Some Types of Inhalants
What are the Effects of Inhalant Abuse?
Inhaling the chemicals in inhalants can cause cardiac arrest and death within minutes of just a single use, known as "sniffing death". When put together with someone who is extremely addicted to the chemicals, the chances of "sniffing death" occurring are greatly increased.
Inhaling toxic chemicals removes the healthy air from the lungs and instead, replaces it with poison, also depriving the body of oxygen. This is known as "hypoxia".
Long term inhalant abuse can break down the outside fatty layer that protects your nerves. When this happens, you can be faced with tremors, shaking, the inability to control your own body, and the lack of being able to walk or talk normally.
High concentrations of the chemicals can also cause suffocation. By removing the air from your lungs and body and replacing it with poison, you can no longer breathe. You'll lose consciousness and can suffocate to death without even being aware that you're dying. This is how my brother passed away.
A Little Girl Without a Father
My brother was an alcoholic for around 20 years. He was engaged to a nurse, he had a great life, but he couldn't hold a job. His fiancé of 5 years finally decided she deserved better when he was diagnosed with cirrhosis ... and left. This was when it all took a turn for the worst.
Josh moved in with our family to get on his feet. His drinking became more and more excessive, often resulting in seizures. He began stealing money so he could purchase alcohol. He hopped from home to home over 5 months until he was homeless. This was when we decided to get him into rehab.
He spent his very last Christmas alive in a bed-bug infested rehab in Houston. Then his roommate introduced him to "canned air".
He was kicked out of rehab for huffing and my parents found him sitting in front of a Subway restaurant. He had a can in his coat and he would stick his face inside the coat to get another whiff of air. He didn't even know who they were.
A few months had passed. We had talked off and on. I had just welcomed a brand new baby boy and didn't have much time for my drug addict brother. The last time we spoke was on Mother's Day of 2014 when he called to tell me he loved me.
He didn't have money, so he would walk into any regular store and would shove the cans of air into his pants. He was caught a few times and spent his last few days alive sitting in county jail.
When he got out he went straight to the store. He stole a few cans of air, sat next to a creek and huffed the cans until he finally took his last breath.
He was found face down in the creek on June 9, 2014.
Two days later I received the phone call from our mother when we were notified that his body was found. Still to this day there are no words that I can begin to express on as to how I felt the moment I realized my drug addicted brother was no longer breathing. That I would never hear his voice again. I would never feel his giant hugs. I could no longer call him when I was having my own problems. He was gone. Just like that .... Gone.
What To Do If You Suspect Inhalant Abuse
There are local programs for income based rehabilitation centers readily available and easily searched for.
Knowing the signs and symptoms, eliminating any contributing factors to the addiction, monitoring money, and overall being aware of what is going on will help as well.
Teenagers have a tendency to "huff" more often than adults simply because it's so easy to hide from their parents and easier to get compared to other drugs. The effects don't usually last as long and there is sometimes no certain "smell" associated with it. It can be easily hidden. The death rate among teenagers using inhalants is also quite high because they're often uneducated on the dangers of inhalant abuse. Talk with your teenagers about the dangers to help stop or prevent any future problems.
If you're the one with an addiction problem, I want you to know that there is help available. Losing my brother was the hardest thing I have ever went through and to this day, the guilt still rests on me for not doing everything I could do to help him. He was my best friend. My rock. The last thing you want to do is leave your family feeling alone, guilty, and sad over the loss of you. So please, get help.
I have provided some links below to help you get started on your path to recovery.
(I am no doctor nor am I trained in this field. I am merely a family member of someone who died from inhalant abuse. Someone who has spent countless hours researching, shed more tears than I can count, and just wants to spread the word on the dangers. If you or someone you know has an addiction problem, please seek professional help immediately)
Income Based Rehab Facility Search
- Find low cost or free substance abuse treatment |SAMHSA News
For those needing substance abuse treatment but no access to health insurance there are several option to get free or low-cost help.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Organization | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Offices: Office of the NIDA Director (OD) NIDA Director's Page Office of Diversity & Health Disparities (ODHD) - (formerly Special Populations Office)
Inhalant Abuse Prevention
© 2014 Ash Ryan