The Deadly Drugs under Your Nose

Inhalants are the drug of choice among pre-teens and early teens. Why? Chemicals that can be bagged or huffed are cheap, legal and are readily available in most homes.


In April 2005, Jeff Williams, an East Cleveland police officer, posted a public email to warn others about the dangers of inhalant abuse. His 14 year old son, Kyle, had died from the effects of inhaling the contents of a can of Dust-Off. His wife, Kathy, is a nurse.

Here are some excerpts from his email:

"First I'm going to tell you a little about me and my family. My name is Jeff. I am a Police Officer for a city which is known nationwide for its crime rate. We have a lot of gangs and drugs. At one point we were #2 in the nation in homicides per capita. I also have a police K-9 named Thor. He was certified in drugs and general duty. He retired at 3 years old because he was shot in the line of duty. He lives with us now and I still train with him because he likes it. I always liked the fact that there was no way to bring drugs into my house. Thor wouldn't allow it. He would tell on you. The reason I say this is so you understand that I know about drugs. I have taught in schools about drugs. My wife asks all our kids at least once a week if they used any drugs. Makes them promise they won't...

...On March 1st I left for work at 10 PM. At 11 PM my wife went down and kissed Kyle goodnight. At 530 AM the next morning Kathy went downstairs to wake Kyle up for school, before she left for work. He was sitting up in bed with his legs crossed and his head leaning over. She called to him a few times to get up. He didn't move. He would sometimes tease her like this and pretend he fell back asleep. He was never easy to get up. She went in and shook his arm. He fell over. He was pale white and had the straw from the Dust Off can coming out of his mouth. He had the new can of Dust Off in his hands. Kyle was dead."

Extent of Inhalant Usage in Our Youth

Inhalants are the drug of choice among pre-teens and early teens. The peak age of inhalant abuse is between 14 to 15 years, with onset in children as young as 5 or 6 years of age. Usage typically declines by 17 to 19 years of age but can continue into adulthood. The 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health concluded that approximately 22.3 million Americans aged 12 or older reported using inhalants at least once during their lifetimes, (8.9% of the population). There were 729,000 persons aged 12 or older who had used inhalants for the first time within the past 12 months, (70.4% were under age 18). Despite these numbers, the relative danger of inhalant abuse remains largely unrecognized by parents, law enforcement, educators and health professionals.

What is the Allure of Inhalants?

The high is usually short-lived, yet intense. At first, inhalants have a stimulating effect. Additional hits may make the individual feel euphoric, dizzy, giddy, and light-headed, similar to feeling drunk. Because intoxication lasts only a few minutes, abusers frequently try to prolong the high by continuing to inhale repeatedly over the course of several hours. Repeated hits may lead to feelings of agitation; the user can become violent.

Probably the biggest draw to using inhalants is the availability and cost of the drug. You can find inhalants in your home or buy them at any local grocery, hardware or variety store. Buying these products is perfectly legal. Containers are easy to hide (even in clear view). You don't need a dealer or extensive drug paraphernalia. Parents are generally unaware of any problem and kids can easily explain why they have these products if they are caught.

What is Usually Inhaled?

Inhalants include a wide variety of substances that give off vapors or fumes which can be inhaled; adhesives (PVC cement, airplane glue), aerosols (deodorant, spray paint) solvents and fuels (gasoline, paint thinner), cleaning agents (correction fluid, dry cleaning fluid), compressed air (Dust Off), dessert toppings (whipped cream), room deodorizers, and medical anesthetics (nitrous oxide, chloroform).

How Are Inhalants Abused?

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