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Inhalants - Dangers, Abuse Statistics and Addiction

The abuse of inhalants is an extremely dangerous past time that is practised all over the world.

Substance Abuse in South Africa

In 2002 the Medical Research Council (MRC) in South Africa reported in a national study that roughly 11 percent of all South African Children in grades 8 to 11 had used inhalants at least once.

More recently, in 2013, the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence produced statistics showing that, from 2010, less that 1 percent of South Africans abused inhalants.

While the statistics of inhalant substance abuse in South Africa seem relatively low, there is a huge misconception in South Africa that inhalant abuse is limited to street children and is often not considered as illegal drug abuse.

Inhalants are generally used by young people. Statistics show that children are most at risk of abusing inhalants while in the 7th to 9th grade.

Studies also show that inhalant abuse affected all racial and economic groups. One social worker named Jath van der Westhuizen even reported having a 6-year-old patient who suffered brain damage from inhalant abuse.

How are inhalants used?

Inhalant abuse is usually a group activity and as the name suggests, vapours are inhaled through the mouth and nose. It is not uncommon to see inhalant abusers sniffing out of a bag or container. Another common way to use inhalants is to hold a cloth soaked in the substance to your mouth and nose.

When sniffed, huffed or inhaled, these substances produce a feeling of drunkenness, euphoria and disorientation accompanied by auditory and visual hallucinations.

There are many different substances that can be inhaled and abused, most of them are household products and are easy to get hold of.

Some commonly abused substances include:

  • - paint thinners,
  • - glues,
  • - petrol,
  • - lighter fluid,
  • - refrigeration gases,
  • - spray paints,
  • - hairspray
  • - and deodorant.

In many adult cases chloroform, laughing gas and poppers or nitrates are abused.

Health Hazards and effects of inhalant abuse

Inhalant abuse has disastrous effects on the human body. Brain and vital organ damage can take place from the very first use and at worst heart failure and death. High concentrations of inhalants often cause suffocation, seizures and comas.

Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome

Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SSDS) is the most common cause of death associated with inhalant abuse.

SSDS happens when a user gets surprised or shocked while sniffing or huffing. For example, when a user is caught sniffing, adrenaline is released because of the scary situation.

The presence of inhalants in the body causes adrenaline sensitivity and an irregular heart beat or arrhythmia occurs. This leads to death within seconds.

The physical damage that inhalants cause in the long term is devastating.

On a mental level, users experience addiction and withdrawals, learning disabilities, disorientation and dementia.

On a physical level, patients suffer from brain shrinkage, damaged nerve cells, dramatic weight loss, damaged bone marrow, heart damage, liver and kidney damage as well as lung damage. Many abusers lose their sight, hearing and sense of touch.

Step Away Rehabilitation Center in South Africa

At Step Away, our rehabilitation centre in Port Elizabeth offers extensive programmes for short and long-term abusers of inhalants.

By encouraging your loved one to enrol in our rehabilitation programme, you can help remove them from their toxic life situation that is fostering their addiction. With your help, you can provide someone with a second chance at a normal, happy life through our substance abuse treatment.

For more information about how you can help your loved one overcome addiction, please contact us.

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