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Inhaling Compressed Air: Dangers of Huffing

While the nation’s opioid addiction takes up the spotlight, there’s another deadly threat lurking in the shadows: inhalant abuse.

What is Huffing Addiction?

Here’s the problem with inhalant abuse—most of these potentially lethal products are perfectly legal to possess and readily available in every household. Inhalants can be found in kitchens, bathrooms, and garages. There are thousands of ordinary items which can be used a source of abuse, including:

  • Compressed air or duster.
  • Gasoline.
  • Aerosol cooking spray or whipped cream.
  • Rubber Cement.

The availability and innocuous nature of these products are just two of the reasons this trend is such a problem. Inhalants are also inexpensive, so there are few impediments to experimentation. Once considered to be a “teenage” problem, inhalant abuse has spread into all demographics.

Compressed Air High

Often referred to as “huffing,” inhalants provide a high similar to alcohol, and abuse involves sniffing the fumes from gasoline or compressed air from cans of duster. It can kill users the first time or quickly turn into a dangerous habit.

The buzz from huffing wears off quickly, lasting only seconds to a few minutes. This quick dissipation encourages repeated use and usage for extended periods of time.

Inhalants starve the human body of oxygen. And since the body needs oxygen to live, huffing is extremely dangerous. Persistently breathing in these dangerous chemicals can cause permanent damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. It can also cause fatal heart arrhythmias. With each breath, the user is putting their life in jeopardy.

Hooked on Fumes

Since inhalants offer a cheap high, people sometimes turn to them if they can’t get other drugs. For teens, on the other hand, it’s often a gateway into drug experimentation.

In 2022, an estimated 1.8% of 12th graders, 2.4% of 10th graders, and 3.6% of 8th graders reported using inhalants in the past 12 months.1

For people 12 and older, in 2021 .8% (2.2 million people) reported using inhalants in the past 12 months.1 Of that same group, .1% (335,000 people) had an inhalant use disorder in the same period.1

Inhalant use for both young people and adults continues to be a problem. For those struggling with inhalant use, that substance misuse may turn into an addiction, where the inhalant becomes more important than anything; it’s the sole focus of daily living. It steals all dreams for the future and puts the individuals (including teens) at terrible health risk.

Why is Huffing Addiction Hard to Treat?

All substance abuse issues pose treatment challenges, but inhalant addiction may be particularly hard to treat. It’s not uncommon for people to relapse multiple times while they try to break this deadly habit.

According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC), most substance abuse programs “are not equipped to deal with the multiplicity, intensity and complexity of problems that the inhalant abuser presents.” Approaches used in typical alcohol and drug treatment programs simply don’t cut it. Often, inhalant abuse causes psychological problems and physical damage to the brain. Chronic users may need to be treated for a dual diagnosis of mental illness and chemical dependency, thanks to the negative effects of inhalants.

Finding Huffing Addiction Treatment

For proper treatment, the NIPC recommends starting with a medical examination to assess any damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, liver, and heart. They note the chemicals inhaled during huffing can be stored in fatty tissues for extended periods of time, so detox must be longer than usual, lasting up to several weeks rather than days.

The overall treatment time should be longer, as well. Treatment providers must keep in mind that inhalant users probably have decreased reasoning and resistance than other substance abusers, due to the chemicals’ effects on the brain and thought processes. Before proceeding with treatment, providers must assess the person’s current capabilities of understanding and functioning and once again after the drugs have completely left their system.

To say these overall after-effects can make recovery from inhalant abuse “challenging” is an understatement. As the practice of huffing persists, proper treatment must be applied which meets the unique needs of inhalant abusers and works to turn the tide on this dangerous trend. Treatment may be available through detox, inpatient, and outpatient programs.

You can find addiction treatment in just a few simple steps. Finding an addiction rehab with our directories tool allows you to search for the type of treatment that is best suited for your needs. From there, you can research the various addiction treatment facilities.

If you plan on using insurance for rehab, you can also use the tool to search facilities that accept your insurance.

Additional Reading:   7 Addiction Facts a Lot of People Don’t Understand

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