Inhalant Abuse in the Kansas City Area

Along with all the other drugs which are growing in popularity in the Kansas City area, a common item which can be found in most office supply stores and other popular general stores is being abused.

Inhalants, like nitrous-oxide, are in most electronic dusting solutions, like Air duster and Dust Off. Air duster is canned air which can be purchased by almost anyone at many stores. The canned air is used to spray dust out of keyboards and other technological equipment, mainly computers. Another inhalant, butane, is a lighter fluid, which can also be purchased by almost anyone. Spray paint isn’t as easy to acquire. Usually you must be at least eighteen years old to buy it. Typically, canned air is inhaled either directly from the nozzle on the can, or sprayed into a bag and huffed, as is spray paint. Butane can be sucked from the tube.

The high they receive from inhalants does not last long, usually under 3 minutes. The desired effect consists of euphoria, a numbing sensation, laughing uncontrollably, and sometimes psychedelic hallucinations, typically strange sound distortion. Though it does not last long, it is very appealing to some because of how easy it is to get, and how cheap it is.

Most users do not realize how incredibly dangerous inhalants can be. They don’t know that they could die from using them the very first time. Heavy use can cause loss of the vitamin B12, which can cause numbing of nerve ends throughout the body. It can destroy vital bone marrow and other tissues, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver. And, as most people know, it can destroy brain cells. Immediately following the use of an inhalant, nausea and vomiting can occur. Upon inhalation, the dangerous gases cut off oxygen to the brain, and this is why there are many reported cases of death from inhalant usage.

Though inhalants are not physically addictive, many users become psychologically hooked on them. Like any other drug, users feel the need to have their inhalants to feel happiness. They fail to realize that no matter how many times they’ve done it, they could still die instantly from the effects on the body from these chemicals. By the time students reach eighth grade, one in five of them will have used inhalants.

An anonymous fourteen-year-old ex-user of inhalants has been interviewed for this article.

Q: How old were you the first time you ever used an inhalant?
A: Thirteen.

Q: What kind of inhalant did you use?
A: Air duster.

Q: Was it on your own, or with a friend?
A: I was with a friend.

Q: Where did you get the idea?
A: From a movie. We watched the movie and decided it would be a good idea to try it. So we found a can under her computer, and inhaled some.

Q: What effect did it have on you? Did you want to do it again?
A: I felt I became psychologically addicted. I really liked it, so I did it more and more. First it was once every few weeks, then every week, and then a few days a week. Soon it became every day.

Q: When was the last time you used an inhalant, and what happened?
A: About two weeks ago, I was with a friend. I hadn’t used it in a while, but no matter how much I did, I couldn’t feel the high anymore. It was worthless.

Q: After using it so often, what negative effects would you say it’s had on your mind and body?
A: It’s been harder to find things- Say you told me to find the soda on the table in front of me. I would find it, but it would take more effort than it used to. Also, my intelligence hasn’t really dropped, but my common sense has gotten worse. My grades are still high, but my friend, who used to have straight A’s, has been getting mostly B’s and C’s.

Q: What physical effects has it had on you?
A: Sometimes I can’t feel it when people step on my toes. Well, I can feel it, but it takes much longer to register than it did before.

As you can see, something very easily accessed can cause permanent harm. In less fortunate cases, it can cause instant death. Fortunately, a lot of stores that sell canned air are starting to put an age restriction on those products, making them less accessible to teenagers. However, this is not enough. Kids are still abusing inhalants every day, but the more aware of the risks of abuse they are, the less they will use them.

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