State health officials are seeing staggering numbers of children, mostly teenagers, poisoning themselves by inhaling dangerous chemicals in an attempt to get high. DeAnn Decker, chief of the state health department’s Bureau of Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, says kids are “huffing” fumes from all sorts of common items, including: glue, magic markers, correction fluid, gasoline, cans of spray paint and cans of whipped creme.
Decker says: “It’s a lot of different things. Kids are getting pretty creative these days. It can be hair spray. It could be any type of chemical with a chemical vapor, anything that would produce a mind-altering effect.”
Between 2002 to ’06, Decker says Iowa averaged nearly 450 hospitalizations and more than 3,800 emergency room visits each year due to inhalant poisonings.
Better than eight out of ten cases were in people 18 or younger. She says Iowa parents need to keep their eyes open for clues and symptoms. Decker says: “It’s very common things you see around the house. Awareness is just critical. Looking for some of the signs, kids going for things that they have not used before, paint or other stains on their face, paint on the back sides of their hands and on their clothes or marks around their mouth.”
Other signs might include: drunk or disoriented appearance, slurred speech, nausea or loss of appetite, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability and depression. Decker says inhaling these poisons can be deadly. Decker says: “There are cases where it’s been fatal on the first tries, their first attempts. They think they’re just doing something that’s quite innocent and it’s been fatal in some cases. We’ve got to be really aware of this.”
She says early identification and intervention are the best ways to stop inhalant abuse before it causes serious health consequences. For more information, visit www.inhalants.drugabuse.gov .