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Inhalant Abuse by Children

Updated on October 21, 2016
Pamela99 profile image

I'm interested in social issues, good relationships, problems of daily living, jobs, exercise and advances for safer living conditions.

What is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant usage (commonly called huffing) by children is increasing in popularity becoming one of the most widespread problems in the country, and most parents are in the dark as to the symptoms to look for and the dangers involved. Inhalants are as popular as marijuana, easier to come by and easy to hide. A study by National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, United States found inhalants were the third most used substance among 12-13 year old children using household products.

Inhalants refer to the intentional breathing of gas or some type of vapors to achieve a high. Inhalants are legal. They are everyday products that we use in our homes which have a useful purpose. There are more than a 1000 products that are dangerous when inhaled and include things like typewriter correction fluid, glues, felt tip markers, spray paint, hand sanitizers, paint thinner, lacquer thinner, gasoline, kerosene, antifreeze, air fresheners, butane, air-conditioning refrigerant, air fresheners, nail polish remover, deodorant, Dustoff (a popular computer cleaner) and cooking spray to list just a few items.

Sometimes a child will squeeze glue into a bag then breathe in the vapor. Others pour a substance onto a cloth and hold it over their face, plus they can sniff directly from a container. It is even possible to get high on nutmeg. It is dangerous because it takes longer to take effect, and teens do not know how much to se to get high.

Brain Damange from Inhalant Abuse

Photo Courtesy of National Inhalant Prevention Coalition
Photo Courtesy of National Inhalant Prevention Coalition

A World Wide Problem

Inhalants addiction is actually a world wide problem. In Pakistan, a type of glue called Samad is used and these children are called sniffers. In Vietnam, boys congregate at Ho Chi Minh City parks and sniff a type of yellow glue on a daily basis.

In Africa, at the Lunaska sewage ponds, boys plunge their hands into the dark sludge gathering fist fulls and stuffing it into small plastic bottles, then they tap the bottles on the ground so the methane will rise to the top which manufactures “Jenkem” a noxious mixture made from this fermented sewage. This is what they use when they can’t afford glue. The situation for children around the world is heartbreaking.

Statistics and Signs

Statistics show that inhalants are an equal opportunity high for substance abuse with young white males having the highest usage rate. Hispanic and American Indian populations also show high rates of usage. Inhalants tend to have similar effects to anesthetics slowing down the body’s functions. Sniffing is dangerous and it can kill.

A user can suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome on their 1st, 10th or 100th time of using an inhalant. Repeated use interrupts the flow of oxygen to the heart which can cause an irregular heart rhythm. The long term effects are even worse. Inhalants can dissolve brain tissue causing permanent brain damage, permanent personality changes, memory loss, hallucinations, hearing loss, learning disabilities or uncontrolled shaking. It will eventually concentrate in the lungs, liver, kidneys and bone marrow, plus it can cause severe leukemia.

Listed below are common signs to look for:

  • School problems, including failing grades, chronic absences, and general apathy.
  • Clothing with paint or other stains
  • Spots or sores around the mouth
  • Red or runny eyes or nose
  • Chemical breath odor
  • Drunk, dazed or dizzy appearance
  • Nausea, loss of appetite
  • Anxiety, excitability, irritability

Huffing Information

Actions to Take

What do you do if you find your child is huffing?

  • Remain calm and don’t panic
  • When the abuser is under the influence don’t argue or excite them as they can become aggressive or violent.
  • If the child is conscious, keep them in a well ventilated room while keeping the child calm.
  • Excitement or stimulation can cause hallucinations or violence.
  • Activity or stress may cause heart problems which can lead to Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.
  • Try to find out what inhalant the child used by checking the area and talking with anyone else that is present in the room.
  • Seek professional health once the child is recovered which may be a doctor, a counselor, a school nurse, or other health care professional. Of course, for a medical emergency, call 911.

  • If you suspect a child is using inhalants, don't be accusatory but be frank in a discussion with the youth about inhalant use.

Prevention and Treatment

Talk to children when they are young about inhalants so they know what they are and the potential damage before they hear about them at school or from friends. Remember inhalant use starts quite often in grammar school. Inhalants aren’t drugs but they are poisons and toxins which children need to understand.

Inhalant treatment centers are very rare. Users suffer a high rate of relapse and require 30-40 days or more of detoxification. Withdrawal for the serious user can include hallucinations, nausea, excessive sweating, hand tremors, muscle cramps, headaches, chills and delirium tremens. Call the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) at 1-800-269-4237 for treatment information centers and general information. The NIPC leads a campaign every March for education which has proven to be a helpful tool in educating the public. You can also email them at and request their electronic newsletter.

Children using inhalants is obviously a serious problems and I believe children, teachers and parents need to become very well educated as to the dangers involved. Since inhalant usage is increasing, prevention is the most important thing a parent can try to accomplish.

© 2010 Pamela Oglesby


Submit a Comment
  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nick, My husband worked in the Marshall Islands for a period of time, so I know exactly where your are. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • profile image

    Nick Harry 

    6 years ago

    I like this because i work with so many kids under the age of 18 down to 12 and 9 years of ages. Today my people don't know where did their kids learn how to use it without their parents permissions. Marshall Islands is where i am from. thank you all

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Kris, Thank you so much for your comments. I wrote this hub to hopefully increase awareness. Your brother must be a very dedicated man and I think the work in 3rd world countries is often difficult.

  • Kris Heeter profile image

    Kris Heeter 

    7 years ago from Indiana

    This is indeed a very sad worldwide problem. My brother spent time in Africa and worked once a week in the streets to administer first aid to the street kids who were addicted to sniffing glue and other chemicals. So many kids and such a sad situation! It was heartbreaking to hear how easily they get hooked.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    7 years ago from Sunny Florida

    NarcononVistaBay, Thank you for your comment.

  • NarcononVistaBay profile image


    7 years ago from California

    Very interesting and informative hub

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Prasetio, Thank you for your comments. From what I read this is happening all over the world and it is very sad. I don't think these young teens realize how dangerous it is and they just go along with their friends.

  • prasetio30 profile image


    8 years ago from malang-indonesia

    I learn much from this hub, Pamela. And the important thing is you give the final statement with tips and solution. I heard about this case in my country. And it reported in the highlights news on television. The most user is the teenager in the street. They usually use adhesive glue. It looks terrible for us. I hope this hub useful for us. Good work, Pamela. I rate this hub UP.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Nancy, Thanks for sharing that story. It can happen to anyone's child really. I'm glad your sister took him to the doctor and found out about it before it was too late. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  • nancy_30 profile image


    8 years ago from Georgia

    Great hub Pamela. I didn't even know what huffing was until a few years ago. My sister's son started acting really weird. She got scared and took him to the doctor. That's when she found out that he had been huffing gas. She had my cousin talk to him, he's a police officer, and I don't think he's done it since then.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Tina, Thank you for your comments. I do think this is a serious problem because children will try something without having any idea that they will really be hurt in any way. I hoped to increase the level of awareness.

  • TINA V profile image

    TINA V 

    8 years ago

    I have seen one episode in the Intervention TV show about these inhalants. Even children can buy these computer cleaner spray. There was also a news about a boy (aged between 9 to 12) who died because his classmate asked him to use this spray. Parents really need to be more cautious and observant with their kids.

    This is an informative hub. This would help raise awareness in our families. Have a great week!

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Janny, Thanks you so much for your comment.

    Ann, I very much appreciate your comments. I agree that the numbers are shocking.

    drpastorcarlotta, Thank you for your comments my friend. If they only knew that God has a better plan for their lives then maybe they wouldn't feel so hopeless.

  • drpastorcarlotta profile image

    Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles 

    8 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

    Sad but true! My heart goes out to those who are trapped in this addiction! Lord help them to help themselves!! GREAT HUB my friend!!! Much love to you!

  • Ann Nonymous profile image

    Ann Nonymous 

    8 years ago from Virginia

    Pamela, thank you so much for raising awareness about such a sad and serious situation among young people. It was absolutely shocking to take in the numbers! you did a wonderful jobbing spreading the news through your writing, research and videos and i hope it serves its purpose!

  • JannyC profile image


    8 years ago

    Great topic and kind of sad who thought of this and realized this?

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Ictodd, Thank you for your comment.

  • lctodd1947 profile image


    8 years ago from USA

    This is excellent and informative. Great work..Thanks for sharing with us. Very useful

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Sage, Thank you for your comments. I was surprised that this is such a growing problem because it isn't anything new and also the age when many start is so young.

    Habee, Thanks for your comment

  • habee profile image

    Holle Abee 

    8 years ago from Georgia

    I knew kids who were into "huffing." Great info!

  • Sage Williams profile image

    Sage Williams 

    8 years ago

    Great job on this hub and raising awareness. Although, this has been around for a long time. It's good to still raise awareness and let everyone know that this is still a very real problem today among our youth.

    So many kids experiment without realizing the consequences can be so severe and even life threatening. Thanks for speaking out on such a very important subject.


  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Hello, Thank you for your comments. I know it is a sad situation.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    8 years ago from London, UK

    Pamela, congratulation for writing such a wonderful hub of a sad situation. What is this world coming too. Thank you for a great job.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Eileen, Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your comments.

  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 

    8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    A brilliant hub, and yes it is terrible how our young are ruining their lives. Lets face it there are so many people dying of normal diseases and cancers. It it terrible that the kids are actually doing it deliberately, mainly because they are influenced or led by other kids.

    Get with the wrong crowd and want to be one of the group. Often it is to have friends that they would not other wise have.

    I was a shy kid, a loner, but I am so glad that was all I was. I was lucky not to have had this problem when a child. Now it is just so hard for kids, with single parents or no one home most of the time, they have too much time on their own. Great hub that's for sure hope someone listens.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Parrster, Thank you so much for your comments. That story of the 2 children is one that is repeated too often. Education is the only thing I can think of to help. I hope there are more answers our there.

  • parrster profile image

    Richard Parr 

    8 years ago from Australia

    Growing up in Wellington, New Zealand, 'street kids' were frequently seen sniffing glue; red-eyed, wobbly and zoned out. Saddest of all, I remember when two very young children were found dead in a local garbage dump, they'd climb inside an old fridge with their glue bags (the fridge being an enclosed space that better held the fumes), of course they didn't realise it also kept the air out.

    Sometimes the grievous problems of this world seem so overwhelming. What to do?

    Thanks for the hub.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Ladyjane, Thanks so much for you comment. I hope you are right.

  • ladyjane1 profile image


    8 years ago from Texas

    Pamela great hub. I have been aware of this problem for some time. I recently saw some stories on intervention about this and it amazed me that these kids were doing this to get high. It is very frightening. You gave good info and hope it opens up some peoples eyes as to what their kids are doing. Cheers.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Susan, I hope you are right. The children start so young and I really hope that getting the word out helps. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • susanlang profile image


    8 years ago

    Pamela hi. You hit the ball out of the park with this hub story... this problem my have been around since the 70's and I remember reading some other stories in Readers Digest about the problem.. You're help in promoting awareness to this problem is such a good thing, by getting the word out many will seek rehab I'm sure! Thanks for this hub Pamela

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Miata, Thank you for your comment.

    Carolina, I think that is a complex question that there is no simple answer for. Thanks for your comment.

  • carolina muscle profile image

    carolina muscle 

    8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

    Horrifying. What is it about the human animal and self destructive behavior?

    Great post.

  • prettydarkhorse profile image


    8 years ago from US

    This is a complte hub about safety precautions about inhalants. Rated it up, Maita

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Anginwu, Thanks for your comment. I have heard of teens mixing pills but I don't know how widespread that problem is. They are all serious problems for the children of today.

  • anglnwu profile image


    8 years ago

    Pamela, this is a very interesting topic. I've heard of huffing inhalent before but this hub expose the severity of the problem. It's sad when kids turn to inhalent to get high. Another trend now is to take prescription drugs, they mix and match pills, notoriously known as "trail mix."Thanks for sharing.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Katiemm Thanks for your comment. When I read the number of children still doing this it made me very grateful that my boys are adults.

    Sheilba, Thanks for your comment.

  • sheila b. profile image

    sheila b. 

    8 years ago

    With no young children anymore, I wasn't aware this is still going on. Good of you to alert people.

  • katiem2 profile image


    8 years ago from I'm outta here

    Pamela, things such as inhalant abuse are so hard to imagine and yet real, thank you for raising awareness. Peace :)

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    2besure, Thank you for your comment.

  • 2besure profile image

    Pamela Lipscomb 

    8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

    This was very prevalent in the 60's and 70. I am sad to say it is still going on.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    The hopeless of a child breaks my heart. There are so many children living in homes with one parent who works 2 jobs, or a parent that is addicted to alcohol, etc. I don't believe children are getting enough nurturing when they are young and they aren't learning anything about God having a plan for their life. My grandchildren were all in youth groups in churches and you can see the positive effect. There friends are also Christians in the group which helps peer pressure not be a problem. Thank you so much for your comment.

  • RTalloni profile image


    8 years ago from the short journey

    So glad you highlighted this problem. I was once horrified to walk in on a child in a public bathroom that had found a spray container and had begun to sniff/huff/inhale the contents. I took it and her to the authorities of the establishment and left the situation with them for I knew that help would be offered...often my thoughts are of how young she was.

    Just yesterday I heard the head of a youth camp in Georgia speak of how they are helping to rescue kids from...what do you think? He mentioned all the influences that are dragging our nation's children down, but his focus was on their excuse...hopelessness. Our children say that the reason they do everything from drugs to attempting suicide is that they feel hopeless. I learned that we have the highest suicide rate among children in the world!

    Oh how we need to teach them that God loves them and has plans for their lives if they will turn to Him according to His Word--plans to prosper them, not harm them (Jer. 29:11). How they need to know that in Jesus the Christ they can have hope for the future no matter what is happening in the world they live in, that economics, politics, social standing nor anything else can separate us from the love of God if we will trust and obey Him, and that in Christ the future is bright with all of the grace and power of the High King of Heaven when we submit our hearts and minds to His will and way. Agreeing with God is freedom, but the lie is that it is bondage and our children are being fed the lie.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Robert, Thank you so much for your comment. Gob Bless you too.

  • Putz Ballard profile image

    Putz Ballard 

    8 years ago

    Pamela, great hub. I have heard of this and how dangerous it can be.Thanks for sharing this. God bless.

  • Pamela99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Pamela Oglesby 

    8 years ago from Sunny Florida

    Billy, I agree that it is a sad situation and thanks for your comment.

    Tom, I think they have some laws about selling model glue now because of the danger. We just didn't know about this when we were young. Thanks for your comment.

  • Tom Whitworth profile image

    Tom Whitworth 

    8 years ago from Moundsville, WV


    This a very important message in your hub. Back when I was a pre-teen and a young teenager I used to build model ships and cars. I always got a headache from the glue fumes and didn't known why at that time. I can't imagine the damage of huffing from a bag!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • billyaustindillon profile image


    8 years ago

    Pamela a very important hub about a sad sad situation - as times get tough these addictions just keep growing too.


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