Updated on June 10, 2021
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2011 that nearly ten percent of teens aged twelve and up had tried huffing. Household substances such as correcting fluid, spray paint, adhesives, or cooking spray may be inhaled to obtain a short-lived “high” which is similar to the feeling of being drunk.
Because of the need for bulky cans or bottles, plastic baggies, rags, and other apparatus, huffing is one of the more difficult teen drug problems to hide. Know what to look for if you suspect your teen may be developing a huffing habit, and know that you’re not alone in dealing with the problem.
First, know that just about any solvent-based household product can be huffed. Create a comprehensive list of substances that can be huffed, and check their usual places around your house to see if any are missing. In addition to the substances listed above, look for:
- Rubber cement
- Room deodorizer spray
- Hair spray
- Paint thinner
- Nail polish remover
- Felt-tip markers
Know the Vectors
Next, move on to educating yourself about how these substances are used and abused. There are three main ways a huffer may get these substances into their body:
Huffing, or soaking a rag in a liquid solvent and pressing it to the mouth or nose. Look for chemical-smelling rags, tissues, or cloths in your teen’s room or in the household garbage.
Sniffing, or inhaling the substance directly from the source. When sniffing, it may be difficult to avoid getting paint or marker on the nose or mouth, so look for stains on your teen’s face, and a stockpile of inhalable substances in their room.
Bagging, which involves spraying an aerosol substance into a plastic baggie and holding the baggie over the mouth. Look for chemical-smelling empty baggies in your teen’s room or the household garbage.
Warning Signs Your Teen is Huffing
As noted above, huffing is not an easy problem to hide, and the smell may be the biggest giveaway. Once a teen finds a substance that provides the desired high, they are likely to become habitual in their use of that substance. So keep your nose open for a teen who always comes home smelling like felt-tip markers, or spray paint… or even Febreeze! In addition, look out for:
- Drunken appearance
- Glassy, dilated, or constricted eyes
- Loss of appetite, accompanied by weight loss
- Pale skin
- Slurred speech
- Rashes/sores around mouth or nose
- A perpetually runny or red nose
- Excessive sweating
- Restlessness or nervousness
Short-term Symptoms Your Teenager is Using Inhalants
The signs of inhalant-influenced behavior are similar in many ways to the symptoms of alcohol abuse, so it may be difficult to determine the root cause based on behavior alone.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Impaired judgment
Long Term Effects of Huffing are Life Changing
Huffing is an incredibly risky habit to take up. Long-term use and abuse of inhaled substances can lead to:
- Cardiac arrest
- Brain damage
- Muscle damage
- Bone marrow damage, which inhibits the production of health red blood cells
- Cancer—many inhalants are carcinogenic.