The hazards of huffing
It may seem harmless, but sniffing of glue or other substances can have serious and permanent effects.
'Huffing' or sniffing has been around for years, but as teens’ search for drugs and highs increase, so do their experimentation levels. The Life Talk parent support forum is receiving an increased number of reports of this phenomenon, at least 10 times more than in previous years.

What is huffing?

Huffing is the intentional inhalation or sniffing of a chemical substance either through a rag or sprayed directly into the nose or mouth. In some instances, sleeves are used so that the chemical can be sniffed over a period of time. The substances may also be sprayed into a plastic or paper bag and then inhaled.  

This results in a quick euphoric effect, an initial excitement and lowering of inhibitions followed by drowsiness and possible agitation.

The chemicals that are found in household solvents, deodorants and aerosols, when inhaled, can have varying physical effects ranging from mild to severe headaches, bone marrow depression, burns, lead poisoning, carbon monoxide poisoning to name a few, or as was so tragically reported earlier this year, death. This abuse can become a long term addiction with dire consequences.

Many teens know all about huffing but are oblivious to the hazardous side-effects believing that as it is not alcohol or drugs, it is safe. Of further concern is the fact that many homes throughout South Africa use these household products daily and as such they are easily accessible by all family members, thus making them open to abuse.

Signs of huffing
  • Appearance similar to intoxication
  • Paint or other chemical stains on face, hands, or clothing
  • Hidden empty spray paint or chemical containers
  • Inaudible speech
  • Strong chemical odours on breath, clothing or in bedrooms
  • Nausea or complete loss of appetite
  • Red or runny nose but no other flu symptoms
  • Sores or rashes around the nose or mouth that cannot be explained
  • Stains on the sleeves of clothing or school ties
What can parents do?

By nature, the teen years are a time for pushing boundaries, risk-taking and giving into peer pressure and so activities such as huffing can become a temptation to ‘try just once’ or ‘be one of the cool dudes’. 

Apart from being aware of the above-mentioned signs, alert your children to the dangers associated with this practice in an attempt to dissuade them from experimenting.
  • Keep channels of communication open.
  • Encourage hobbies that support a healthy lifestyle so that activities such as drinking, drugging and huffing become less attractive.
  • Remain involved in their lives, taking an interest in their opinions, thoughts and views.
  • Encourage them to assert themselves so that they are able to stand up to others and negative peer pressure. 
This trend is all part of the bigger picture that Life Talk is tackling by raising awareness through solution-orientated talks, workshops and newsletters. 

To find out more visit Life Talk.

Have you heard of huffing? What should be done about it?

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