Huffing more popular among teens than pot

March 11, 2010 6:27:39 PM PST
A stark new warning is out for parents about teenage huffing. There is new evidence that the dangerous high is now more popular than drinking, smoking, or most other drugs combined.

The trend is frightening. Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says inhalants, or common household products, are becoming the drug of choice for 12-year-olds and only drinking has been tried more often.

Kids who use inhalants are not afraid to post their videos on YouTube, laughing about getting a cheap high from what they call huffing or dusting. They use common household products ranging from nail polish remover to computer cleaner.

"I tried air duster for the first time when I was just 11 years old. At the time, I had no idea what I was huffing. It was a product I had access to in my own home so I didn't think it was a drug and wasn't afraid to use it," said Ashley Upchurch, a former inhalant user.

Thursday, medical professionals revealed startling new data about the growing use of inhalants among 12-year-olds -- seven percent say they're doing it.

"Inhalants exceed the rate of use of cigarettes, marijuana, hallucinogens and any other drug that 12-year-olds may be experimenting with," said Pamela Hyde with Substance Abuse Services.

Dr. Seth Ammerman is an adolescent doctor from Stanford University Medical Center. He has been treating young substance abusers for more than 20 years. He warns parents and kids about the growing problem of sudden sniffing death.

"The inhalants compete with oxygen and so if the dose is too high you can actually get oxygen deprivation and pass out and even suffocate," said Ammerman.

Some of those videos on YouTube talk about the serious consequences of inhalants, including brain damage, heart problems, organ failure and even death.

"I could have died and I do consider myself lucky," said one girl on YouTube.

Ammerman says parents must be aware of the potential dangers of everyday household products and their growing popularity.

"I don't necessarily think they should be locked up, but I do think they need to talk with your kid about this because unfortunately you may not know your child is using them," said Ammerman.

Communication is the key. Upchurch and other young people will tell you, they do not think that inhalants are dangerous and they must know the truth.

For parents, some of the warning signs to watch out for can mimic that of alcohol use like slurred speech or coordination problems, including the smell of a product.


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