Hello, please allow me to introduce myself. I am a 19 year old college freshman from the midwest, I'm female, a musician, I enjoy reading classic literature, and I take an interest in politics. I'm also an ex-inhalant abuser.
I huffed several different things, with a particular affinity for WD-40, gasoline, and paint for nearly a year until I finally quit. I've slipped a few times since then, but have generally moved on to a healthier lifestyle. Ever since I quit, however, I've been thinking and wondering about inhalants in general--How much have I been affected, if at all? If I have sustained brain damage or liver damage or anything of the like, what can I do about it? Many of my questions are similar to Sandyk'
s, just wondering if certain tics or physical abnormalities stem from inhalant-induced brain damage or not. But, that is beside my point. After lurking on this forum for quite some time, reading the heartbreaking stories of parents who have lost their children, siblings who lost their brothers or sisters, friends who lost friends, and even people like me, who are stuck wondering what they've done to themselves, a bigger question has formulated: What can we do about this?
If you are a current or former inhalant user, love someone who is, or simply have an interest in the topic, I would sincerely appreciate your time in at least reading what I have to say. I would certainly hope that you want to do everything possible to prevent these tragedies from continuing to occur, and I think I have some insights which could eventually help in achieving this goal.
Inhalant abuse is a serious problem, and more than that, it's unnecessary. These deaths, these injuries, etc, are all completely unnecessary, and particularly heartbreaking due to the demographics to which they are happening: Children.
"Huffing is the 3rd most abused substance by teenagers and is an increasing problem in today's society. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH/NHSDA), "inhalants had the youngest average age at first use (16.0 years)" and "75% of recent initiates were under 18 when they first used"
You've probably read this statistic before, or one similar to it, but consider the implications. Why are inhalants so apparently attractive to youth? Does the appeal of sniffing gasoline just somehow strike a chord with adolescents? Doubtful. Especially since, with the Internet, health classes, and simply general knowledge, kids probably know (though may not fully believe or realize) the health risks. No. Huffing is nobody's first choice. So what leads kids to it?
Although I am only a student, I'm not a sociologist or anything of the sort, so all of this is based on speculation and personal experience, I think my answer to this question has some validity: Kids huff because they experience a real or perceived lack of access to other psychoactive substances. In simpler terms, kids huff because they can't find weed. Kids huff because they can't drink for 8 more years. This was true for me, and I'm sure it's true for others as well.
I'm not going to discuss why kids (or adults) feel compelled to partake in mind-altering substances, but I will pose a difficult question:
You would rather have your kid smoke weed than huff glue [or insert chemical of choice], right?
I would. It's no secret here that huffing can cause an irregular heartbeat, leading to cardiac arrest, in the form of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, not to mention neurological and physiological problems as well. Although accurate statistics for a number of people whose deaths were caused by huffing are hard to find, due to underreporting, inaccurate reporting, etc, the fact that it has happened puts inhalant-related deaths above marijuana's zero.
I'm not going to harp on about legalizing marijuana, but I think inhalant abuse and its prevalence among youth stems from America's fear-based culture, lack of true education, and absurd War on Drugs.
Well, what can we do?
Though individuals can do little to change the culture of an entire nation, one certainly can change the culture of their home or community. If you're a parent, strive to foster an open atmosphere in your home, one which easily facilitates honest conversation. I'm sure you've heard the rhetoric of talking to your child about drugs, but what should you say? Don't try to instill a sense of fear in your kids, because that's where inhalant abuse comes from. Fear. Fear of the law, or of the social stigma of "real" drugs, etc. Don't support fear. Fear and education are opposites and do not go together. Tell your kids the truth about inhalants and about the other drugs, and if you don't know it, learn it. Erowid.org
is a great resource on mind-altering substances, as is simply Wikipedia.
Largely caused by the Reagan regime's War on Drugs, our culture and particularly our public education system, is more politicized than truth-based, and runs on fear. Health classes do not aim to educate students about drug use, rather, they attempt to scare kids out of it. And while this may work with young, naive children, as kids age, they generally begin to question authority, made apparent by teen pregnancy despite the efforts of abstinence-only education. Kids will get curious eventually, probably even sooner if drugs are portrayed as mysterious and dangerous, and they will try something. Which brings me back to my previous question: What would you rather have it be?
If we actually educate students, give them all the information, non-biased, no BS, no politics, I would think they wouldn't be as prone to try inhalants. If we de-stigmatize drug use, educate, and reinforce lines of open communication, I sincerely doubt as many kids would be huffing, and if they were, they could at least more easily get help.
But how can we accomplish this? Well, like I said, if you're a parent, start with the home. Make sure your kids know that they can talk about drug use without fearing the repercussions. But what about schools? As a parent or a student, I would stress knowledge above all. Know what's going on in there. Study the curriculum and the drug policy; make sure it is conducive to a progressive, open, reform-based system, rather than a system which simply punishes and teaches nothing. Write letters to the administration and the school board about their policies. For instance, when I was younger, I tried to purchase marijuana from an older student and got caught. Rather than anything remotely educational or reform-based, I simply got kicked out of school. I tried huffing not long after that. Although schools may acknowledge and even teach the dangers of inhalant use, they may not realize their zero-tolerance drug policies and "just say no" classes and programs actually facilitate it.
Who controls the public schools? Well, the government. As someone who has been affected by inhalant abuse, your own or a loved one's, I would definitely register to vote immediately, if you are eligible and haven't. Why? Because certain politicians and certain political affiliations will support education-based, reform-based, harm reduction
policies, all of which will help reduce inhalant abuse. And some won't. I am of the controversial opinion that legalizing recreational marijuana and lowering the drinking age will both serve to de-glamorize adolescents' views of the substances, thus giving a healthier perspective on drugs in general, lowering binge drinking and other dangerous activity, and also providing safer alternatives to inhalants (though if drugs are not perceived as mysterious and dangerous and therefore alluring, many teenagers may not be compelled to try them in the first place).
Finally, in addition to providing a safe, open environment at home, being aware and active in what's happening at school, and staying politically informed and active as well, one must also simply keep making noise. If you ever want inhalant abuse to become a real problem on the nation's radar, make some noise! Talk about it! I know some people on this board were trying to get onto Oprah, a plan which would have been tremendously beneficial in spreading awareness. That's how it works though. Talk to people, write articles for local newspapers or school newspapers, write blogs, write Facebook statuses, talk to reporters, write letters to the editor, do whatever you can. Don't be shy about the gruesome details, because that's what gets people to listen to you. Mobilize! This forum is great for providing support for people with the same problems, but let's do something to fix that problem for others, for people who haven't even been born yet.
Tl;dr: Inhalants are bad, kids huff because they can't do anything else, they can't do anything else because of our fear-based, War on Drugs society and culture, to fix that you should make your home open and free, talk to your school, be active in politics, and always be spreading awareness of inhalant abuse.
If you want any information on inhalants, the War on Drugs, drugs in general, or social movements, etc, feel free to private message me or just comment here.
I'm sorry for rambling on and on forever. I've just been considering this for a long time, and figured this was a good place to start. If anybody actually read it, thank you very much, I sincerely appreciate your time and would love to know what you think, about any of it.
Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy New Year.