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Inhalant Awareness and Education

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March 16th marks the beginning of the week for National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week!

I work in assisting the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a contact I made after my episode of Intervention, when I joined Director Harvey Weiss to speak on a panel with others affected by inhalant abuse in Washington DC.  Many of the people that I have spoken with were once inhalant addicts themselves or friends and family (especially parents) of inhalant users who devistatingly passed away while using inhalants. This is an organization that works on reducing, preventing, and making the public aware of inhalant abuse, a goal that we both have in common.

In their most recent newsletter, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) defines inhalant abuse as "the intentional misuse, via inhalation, of common household, school and workplace products and chemicals to “get high.”  This definition also infers two primary inhalant abuse slang terms:  “Sniffing” and “Huffing.” In a sense the Process of“huffing” defines the slang terms for the Activity i.e. bagging (huffing from a bag); Glading (misusing air freshener); etc."

NIPC also regularly provides the public with updates and facts imperitive to spread the awareness and prevention of inhalant abuse.  Here is an update of some of the most recent facts:

1.  Any time an inhalant is used, it could be a fatal episode.  This could be the first time you ever use inhalants, or the 100th.  NIPC notes that there is research showing that "of those people who died from huffing, about one-third died at first time use."

2. Inhalants are usually the first substance a young person experiments with and among 12 and older individuals, more use inhalants than meth, cocaine, heroin, oxycontin, LSD, or sedatives.  As someone who works in chemical dependency, this news was surprising to me because in the past six years as a rehab director I have only had one client who has sought treatment for inhalants specifically, so I can only imagine the mass amount of those suffering that are not receiving treatment.

3. Over 300 inhalant related deaths were reported to the NIPC in the past year.


However, inhalant abuse is no longer an issue primarily amongst adolescents.  This is an addiction that hits people of all ages.  I was 21 the first time I abused inhalants, and 26 the second time.  Many people that reach out to me for help are actually the children of their geriatric parents, and it is the parents that are abusing many different types of inhalants.

The frightening part about inhalants is that they are everyday products in our households and many who try inhalants are unaware of just how dangerous they truly are.  I know that I fell amongst that group that did not understand just how close I was to my next use possibly being my last and the damage that it was causing my body, issues that I still struggle with today, almost six years later.

Inhalant abuse symptoms include the following:

-Paint or stains on clothing or body, especially face and hands

-Presence of chemical-soaked rags, plastic or paper bags, socks or clothing or latex balloons

-Drunk, dazed, dizzy or drowsy appearance lacking explanations
-Anxiety, excitability, irritability
-Red or runny eyes or nose
-Spots, sores or rash around the mouth or nose
-Chemical breath odor
-Nausea, loss of appetite, drooling
-Unexplained abusable products hidden, nearby or in possession of
suspected abuser (i.e. aerosol sprays or paint, lighters or refills, glues,
solvents, propane, etc.)
Education is our greatest tool in inhalant prevention.  Look for the signs, ask for help.


Allison Fogarty is an interventionist, Registered Addiction Specialist intern and has worked extensively in multifaceted directorial roles of residential treatment. Allison has been on A&E’s Intervention, worked with the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, and Alliance for Consumer Education, where she has appeared on several talk shows, public service announcements, and as a guest lecturer at several addiction venues in the fight to prevent the use of, and further the education of, inhalant abuse.

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