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Inhalants: The New, Convenient High for Kids and Teens

For years, the popular TV commercial with fried eggs and the slogan 'This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs' worked to discourage conventional //drug use among young Americans.

But today children and teens are finding new, inexpensive and more convenient ways to get high by using products – found under the kitchen sink or in the bathroom of their homes – that are just as harmful and potentially deadly as drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroine. In fact, about 10 to 15 percent of youth have reported using inhalants at some point in their life to get high.

“Parents are often not aware that kids are using inhalants like cleaning fluids, shoe polish and glue to get high because the signs of abuse are often subtle. Plus, these products don’t fit in with traditional thinking about what constitutes drug abuse,” says David Rosen, M.D., MPH, chief of adolescent medicine in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at the University of Michigan Health System.

Inhalant abuse may seem like youthful experimentation to some, but it can lead to very serious health consequences and death, even the first time they are used, says Rosen.

With the kids home from school for the summer, Rosen says it’s the perfect time to discuss the dangers of inhalant abuse, and he offers some suggestions on how and when to do so, as well as tips on how to detect inhalant abuse with your child.

According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, inhalants are products that can be sniffed, snorted, bagged (fumes inhaled from a plastic bag) or “huffed” (inhalant-soaked rag, sock or roll or toilet paper in the mouth) to achieve a high. Inhalants also are sniffed directly from the container.

Most often, kids who use inhalants are younger teens who don’t have a lot of experience with other drugs. They also tend to be male and have high risk factors for drug abuse including depression, family dysfunction, low so
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