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Huffing and the Risks of Inhalant Abuse

Huffing and the Risks of Inhalant Abuse

A can of deodorant spray or a bottle of spray paint can be very dangerous when they are used with the intention of getting high. Many kids use huffing as a cheap and accessible alternative to alcohol. Huffing, as well as other types of inhalant abuse are potentially deadly, despite the fact that they may seem harmless to kids.

Sniffing, huffing or bagging concentrated amounts of certain products may produce a quick high that lasts only a few minutes. Inhalants are ordinary household products such as nail polish remover, spray paint and hair spray. Some of the chemicals that are found in inhalants include:


  • Butane
  • Freon
  • Acetone
  • Propane
  • Benzene
  • Methylene chloride
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Amyl nitrite
  • Toluene
  • Butyl nitrite



Sometimes, different types of inhalant abuse are referred to as huffing. Some of the ways of inhalant abuse are:


  • Huffing: When an inhalant is soaked in a rag and pressed to the mouth, it is called huffing.
  • Sniffing: Sniffing or snorting fumes from an aerosol container is referred to as sniffing. An aerosol product can also be sprayed directly into the nose or mouth.
  • Bagging: When fumes from a product are sprayed or poured into a plastic or paper bag, it is called bagging.


Sniffing, huffing or bagging will initially cause a sense of euphoria, which can be prolonged or intensified if the inhalant is abused repeatedly over several hours. This is sometimes considered a cheap and accessible alternative to alcohol.



Slurred speech, dizziness, as well as loss of inhibition, control and coordination follow the initial euphoria of sniffing, huffing or bagging. Experiencing hallucinations and delusions are also possible, and some kids may become irritable or agitated.


Lethal heart failure may be the result of a rapid and irregular heartbeat, also known as dysrhythmia, which happens when the inhalant causes the heart to begin working too hard. This usually occurs in people who are abusing propane, butane and chemicals in aerosols for the first time. Fatigue, weakness, and serious liver and kidney damage may be caused by chronic huffing, bagging or sniffing. Some of the other possible risks are loss of hearing and permanent brain damage. Some of the other things that huffing may cause include:


  • When inhalants obstruct air from entering the lungs, a person may suffocate.
  • When inhalants displace oxygen within the lungs, asphyxiation may occur.
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Chocking
  • Death



Parents should discuss the risks of huffing with their children because an open discussion and stating the facts clearly can prevent a tragedy. They should talk about the products that could be used and their slang terms, emphasizing the fact that huffing isn't a harmless way to get high and that inhalants are deadly chemicals.


By being a good listener, parents should encourage their children to come to them with concerns or questions. Parents should set expectations by letting their child know that they won't tolerate huffing or any other type of inhalant abuse. They should also not forget to remind the child that they love him/her and that they are mainly concerned about his/her safety. Parents should stay involved in their children's lives by meeting their friends and knowing where they are and what they are doing, especially after school. Help your child resist peer pressure. Huffing, bagging and sniffing are easily concealed. Parents should look for some of these warning signs:


  • Depression
  • Inattentiveness
  • Paint or other stains on clothing, face or hands
  • Lack of coordination
  • Irritability
  • Chemical odors on breath or clothing
  • Drunk or dazed appearance
  • Hidden clothes, rags or empty containers of products that could be abused
  • Slurred or incoherent speech



If the child is still breathing, he/she should be moved to a well-ventilated area and the local poison control center should be called. However, emergency medical help should be sought in case the child is unconscious or not breathing. The child may experience some withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, nausea, sleep disturbances, hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, irritability or delusions, in case he/she has been abusing inhalants for some time.


The child's doctor, school counselor, a mental health facility or a local drug rehabilitation facility may help the child stop huffing, bagging or sniffing, in case he/she can't stop on their own. The child can also learn how to make healthy life choices with the help of the professionals mentioned above.

Prepared By: Dr. Mehyar Al-khashroum
Edited By: Miss Araz Kahvedjian

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