What is Huffing?

Huffing, sniffing, and bagging is what kids are doing these days to get high. Whatever they call it, the basics of it are when a teenager or even younger kids inhale chemical vapors for a quick high. It is estimated that as many as two million of our children aged 12-17 are huffing, sniffing or bagging – many of which are addicted. Some experts studying this ongoing issue say that first experiences can be as early as 6 – 8.

While most parents are serious and watching for signs of their kids using drugs or alcohol, kids are turning to the poison found on any shelf in our homes and legally bought at any store. Inhalants are cheap and available in most households.

So what are they huffing? Try paint thinner, gasoline, markers, nail polish, correction fluid, rubber cement, keyboard cleaners and a whole list of other substances that are considered legal. Just about everything in an aerosol can be mind altering if it is inhaled deeply and don’t think it is something new. A disturbing study as early as 2005 revealed that girls are huffing more than boys.

The key ingredient for many of the products the kids are using is toluene, a clear, colorless liquid used as a solvent and found in gasoline, paint thinners, fingernail polish, antifreeze and countless other highly toxic items. Inhaling this substance can result in slurred speech, disorientation and other symptoms that are associated with intoxication.

You might think that your child would never do something so seemingly stupid. But, if their friends are telling them it’s fun and they should try it and you haven’t specifically talked to them about the dangers of sniffing furniture polish, are your really convinced that they won’t?

kids huffing

Long term effects of Huffing

Repeated exposure to toluene causes permanent brain damage, depression and even death. Other seemingly innocent products that kids are using to get high include cough and cold medicines, hand sanitizer, dry-erase markers, nitrous oxide canister (whip-it) , body spray, and nutmeg. Yes, nutmeg. Our kids are watching YouTube and learning that if you add enough nutmeg to your morning OJ you can hallucinate.

There is a long list of inventive abuses for using these over the counter items: A half-bottle of Robitussin in a sports drink enables “Robo-tripping” in public. For more information on it check out YouTube again which has over 500 videos of Robotripping teens. A box of Coricidin (“Triple C”) tablets added to a bag of Skittles that can be taken to school. Dry-erase markers can be sniffed. Nitrous oxide capsules, aka “whip-its,” are available online. Kids put them into balloons,  tie them off and they use them for huffing.

The list goes on and on.

One of the newest methods of getting high is using Axe Body Spray (One of the “10 most shoplifted items”). A group of kids spray it into the crooks of their arms, then they all stand in a circle to contain the fumes and inhale. The high only lasts a few seconds so it’s very hard to trace in the bloodstream, the kids just smell really good.

Parents need to become more aware of the ways that youths are finding to get intoxicated or high, so they can watch for the indicators, and have a serious conversation with their kids about the dangers. Much of this activity is taking place right under our noses. For example, kids are drinking hand sanitizer, because it has an alcohol concentration of 80 percent.

Signs your child might be huffing.

A kid high on chemicals will be dazed, have slurred speech, may lose their appetite or be nauseous. Watch them for general drunk-like behavior. They might have a consistent runny nose and sores rashes around the mouth and nose. A simple, common tip off is the strong chemical odor on their breath.  

You may see paint or other stains from cans on the child’s face, hands, or clothing. Look for an excess of empty containers in the trash or maybe hidden around the house or outside. Kids also put substances on rags to inhale them so watch for chemical soaked cloth or clothing.

Teen prescription drug use is at epidemic levels

While all of these uses are highly dangerous for our children one of the more disturbing things that is happening is that our kids are using prescription drugs. This problem is currently at epidemic proportions. There is a prevailing assumption that prescription medications are safe. Kids think that if it’s in the medicine cabinet it’s okay because it was prescribed by a doctor.

Unfortunately a child’s access to prescription drugs is most often found through unwitting adults. Drugs containing benzodiazepine (including Valium and Xanax) are opiates, and they are incredibly lethal when combined with alcohol.

Why do something so stupid?

The reason youths make such ill-advised choices is in part physiological. Scientific study has proven that prior to the age of 20 or so, the brain’s frontal cortex (which manages our self-regulating mechanism) has not fully developed. The result is kids not limiting or even being able to manage their behaviors.

Such behaviors are self-perpetuating, and early substance abuse can cause neuroanatomical effects of the brain. Many of these household substances when used for huffing destroy the prefrontal cortex of the brain, making it so even if you want to stop making stupid decisions, your brain says ‘too bad; I’m done. And there are no brain transplants available.

Dropping a few dabs of Visine into a drink can cause hallucinations, too. Using substances such as eye-drops and hand sanitizer will result in side effects such as vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. An adult might experience those symptoms and realize that they don’t want to do that again. While for kids it’s a badge of honor and when they’re done throwing up, they’ll have another shot.

What drives a young person’s quest to numb reality?

Its no secret that teens have a propensity toward addiction.  Among the experts surveyed, the consensus is that social media has exacerbated the ever-present pressures of school life. Whether it’s a lack of communication with parents, their social status, body image or just typical hormonal growing pains, in seconds, a teen can text, tweet or post a comment about another to hundreds of peers, with devastating effects.

Experts cite the key factors as being social media stress, teen dating violence and cyberbullying. Keep in mind that most teens have a minimum of three Facebook pages: one their parents see, another that some peers see, and then one all of their peers see. It’s pretty shocking when you see what kids are saying about each other. Then there are plethora of other social media apps that kids are using to ensure that their parents don’t see what they and their peers are saying to each other.

Dangers of Huffing

What can you do?

Fortunately, there are many parents, local law enforcement agencies and school administrators who are tackling these issues head-on. In some cases, offering on-campus drug/alcohol counseling services, while school resource officers from local police departments help channel youths into appropriate diversionary programs.

There is a long list of subset problems that surround chronic substance abuse with youth breaking into homes and stealing items that can be sold in order to buy drugs. Gang warfare erupts when a potential interloper threatens drug sales on a specific turf. The incidence of violent crime among teenagers is way up in many large cities and the violence is escalating.

With summer in full swing, and, in many cases, both parents working outside of the home, our continued vigilance is mandatory. Parents can’t put their kids in bubble-wrap, but knowing who their friends are, ensuring they are where they say they are, and that they are doing what they say they’re doing, is essential to keep our children safe from making bad decisions that could affect them for life. But, top priority for every parent should be to educate themselves about the substances that can be abused, watch for changes in behavior, and pay attention to the warning signs of substance abuse.

Get on YouTube, read up online, and be aware of what your kids have access to. For those of you who don’t want to “invade your child’s privacy,” remember that your kids are living in your house and they’re don’t pay rent. You have every right to search their room and their backpack and their dresser drawers and it’s okay to ask questions. You need to know what’s going on at all times. It’s up to you to help them understand the dangers that are out there because they don’t know and can’t know unless you teach them or something devastating happens.  Its important to understand that Huffing doesn’t generally happen in moderation, most kids huffing are facing other addiction issues

If you believe you child is using drugs, find professional help. Don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations with them. No parent should ever have to look back and regret that they didn’t have that tough conversation with their kids.


Addiction to Pain Killers After a Surgery/Injury

After a surgery or injury, the pain can be so great that taking painkillers prescribed by your doctor seems the only option. Usually, recovery is quick and the painkillers can be stopped after just a few days. However, sometimes those painkillers are needed for an extended period of time to live a tolerable life.

The most effective painkillers after a surgery or injury are opioids, which are highly addictive. Heroin and opium are also opioids. These drugs give the user a euphoric feeling, which makes the user want to continue use. Opioids are a type of drug that people develop a tolerance to over time, meaning that they will gradually need more to get the same euphoric feelings, leading to  opioid addiction.

Doctors often prescribe 30 days of painkillers, and when they’re on hand, the temptation can be to use them. Painkillers are chemically very similar to opiates like heroin, and are very easy to become addicted to. Sadly, after the prescribed painkillers are gone, many people find themselves purchasing heroin—which is cheaper and doesn’t require doctor visits.

addiction recoveryIt’s important before you have a surgery to plan ahead. Talk to your doctor about managing your pain. Many painkillers for post-opt are very easy to become addicted to. Knowing what to expect beforehand can help you be hyper-aware of whether you may be on the path to becoming addicted to your painkillers. If you have ever struggled with addiction in the past, let your doctor know so that you can find alternative methods to mediate your pain.

Make sure that you have a good support system of family and friends who can pay attention to your actions and behavior—it may not be easy to notice the addiction in yourself. Know the signs of addiction:

  • Craving your medicine
  • Mood and behavior changed, like anxiety, hostility, and irritability
  • Continued use after the initial pain has ceased
  • Increasing use without doctor recommendation
  • Seeing multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions
  • Illegally buying the prescription or other drugs
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, work/school, social activities

You may not have realized that addictions were setting in while taking the painkillers. Once you stop taking them, you might experience withdrawal symptoms. Many people continue to take drugs to avoid these pains of withdrawal. Know the signs of withdrawal:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches and pain
  • Depression
  • Cramping
  • Flu-like symptoms

If you feel like you are becoming addicted, or are already addicted, talk to your family and friends about it. Go see your doctor so that can you be weaned off of the drug/painkiller in the healthiest way.  In the worst cases, you may need rehab and help staying in remission.


One small piece of knowledge that most people have heard but rarely adhere to is the old saying “All things in moderation”. Essentially it means that almost all things we indulge in are ok for the most part as long as we do not over-do it. Have a slice of pizza, not the whole pizza. Enjoy a drink or two, not all of them. For the most part this is easy to follow for some people who can eat a slice or have a drink. Not everyone handles things in the same manner.

History of Over Indulging

Some of us tend to over indulge in the things we get the most pleasure from. This can be food for some or more dangerous substances such as heroin for others. Society has had addicts for as long as we can remember. Ancient China and the Middle East have had opium addicts for centuries. In the US rather than opium it was heroin that ravaged the country and created addicts among the American people. Along with the heroin at the time was alcohol addiction affecting many people. Soon after the pharmaceutical industry created an enormous number of addicts with all the narcotic based prescription drugs being over prescribed to patients all over the country. Now the medical industry and the government began to notice the growth of addicts in the country. The issue now was how to deal with all the people addicted to the different substances.

Rehabilitation From Addiction

Along comes the idea of Rehabilitation centers to help treat people with addiction issues. One of the first rehab centers was founded by former First Lady Betty Ford who suffered from addiction to alcohol and prescription painkillers. The doors opened to the Betty Ford Clinic in Rancho Mirage, California in 1982. The clinic first was opened to women with addictions to alcohol and drugs. Today the clinic is known as the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and now treats men and women who live in separate areas with gender-specific treatment programs.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction

With drug addiction the steps can be lengthy and dangerous especially with substances the human body can become physically addicted to such as opioids. The first step is detoxification where all traces of the substance are expelled by the body. At this time the patient can go through withdrawal where the body still wants more of that substance. This can be extremely painful for the patient. Once the body has detoxed treatment begins with physical and mental health. There are many treatments available depending on the substance that was abused as well as the mental health of the patient.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcoholics have had a program open to those who recognize the need for help with a problem.  There are many alcohol rehabs throughout the country.  Back in the 1930s the Oxford Group were known to practice a formula for self-improvement by admitting wrong doings, making amends, performing self-inventory, meditating, and mentoring others in the same practices. Some of the practices they performed were things such as not drinking and using the power and support of the group to hold firmly to that practice. With success from those who wanted to make a difference Alcoholics Anonymous was essentially created. Mostly known today as simply “AA”, there are meetings in cities all over the world where anyone can join.

Addictive Personalities

As society grows so do the kinds of addictions. In the early years it was simply drugs like opium and heroin, as well as alcohol. In the 21st century we now have people who are addicted to technology. Young men and women are playing video games and staring at small screens more often than not. People are suffering from eye problems with failing sight at a high rate. Some people are suffering from seizures triggered by the content of video games and online videos. Another relatively new form of addiction is sexual addiction. Sexual addition is estimated to effect 6-8% of the population whether physical or pornography.

With a large number of new addiction types plaguing society, professionals had to develop new treatments and regimens sculpted around the addiction type. The treatments for drug addiction are straight forward with detox to rid the body of narcotics, and then helping that patient get healthy both physically and mentally. This was a tried and true method for drugs, not so much for addiction to technology or pornography. The development of new treatments also led to the foundation of new clinics and other organizations that focus on rehabilitation.

With the foundation of the Betty Ford Clinic as the first rehabilitation center, many more have joined the club. Some of the others are clinics like Crossroads, Townsend, Serenity Vista, and New Beginnings. All of which provide assistance and treatments for many different types of addictions. Some are private and some are public centers. Many may or may not accept some insurance plans depending on location therefor it may be best to call ahead for information pertaining to treatments and compensation. Most general information about the clinic or foundation should be available online.

Treatment for Addiction

With all of the options available for treatment of addiction there is one factor that is most important. The addict must want to change. Knowing there is a problem is the first step in overcoming addictions. Unfortunately some patients are in treatment due to legal circumstances rather than by choice. No matter the circumstances of why the patient is there for treatment there can be progress with a willing participant. Rehabilitation centers have been helping patients overcome addictions to substances and other things for many years. Some of the methods have had great success that helps people to change their lives for the better.