What are the warning signs of inhalant abuse?

Inhalant abuse can be easy to conceal. Look for these warning signs:

  • Hidden rags, clothes or empty containers of products that could be abused
  • Chemical odors on breath or clothing
  • Paint or other stains on face, hands or clothing
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Lack of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

What's the best way to prevent inhalant abuse?

To prevent inhalant abuse, talk about it openly. For example:

  • Discuss the risks. Honest discussion can help prevent a tragedy. Talk about what products can be abused and slang terms for inhalants. State the facts clearly. Emphasize that inhalants are deadly chemicals — not a harmless way to get high.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage your child to come to you with questions or concerns.
  • Set expectations. Let your child know that you won't tolerate huffing or other types of inhalant abuse. Remind your child that you love him or her — and safety comes first.
  • Stay involved. Meet your child's friends and their parents. Know where your child is and what he or she is doing, especially after school. Support your child's efforts to resist peer pressure.

What if I find my child huffing?

If you discover your child huffing, sniffing or bagging, stay calm. If your child is breathing, move to a well-ventilated area until the effects of the episode wear off. If your child is unconscious or not breathing, seek emergency medical help.

If your child has been abusing inhalants for some time, withdrawal symptoms — such as sleep disturbances, irritability, nausea, vomiting, sweating, rapid heartbeat and physical tics — are possible.

If your child can't stop huffing, sniffing or bagging on his or her own, seek professional help. Start with your child's doctor, a school counselor or a local drug rehabilitation facility. The support of a mental health professional can be valuable as well. With help, your child can end inhalant abuse and learn how to make healthy choices for a lifetime.

Jan. 12, 2012 See more In-depth