Teenage Abuse of Household Substances

An average ten year old boy regularly helped his father with the maintenance of his motorcycle. While refueling the vehicle, he accidentally inhaled the fumes produced by the fuel. After a while, the boy became accustomed to the lightheaded feeling the fumes gave him and he started to intentionally inhale the fuel vapors. This habit became a daily ritual for him. His parents noticed that he looked drowsy and seemed to be in a stupor. In an attempt to inhale more fumes at once, the boy tried to push his face against the cycle so that his nose was directly over the fuel hole. Regrettably, he didn’t anticipate the engine being so hot. After seeing the burns on his face caused by the hot vehicle, they brought him in to see a doctor. Unfortunately, the boy never came to a follow-up visit so his condition is unknown.

This actual case vividly illustrates the problem modern society faces with the abuse of household substances. The average home is a veritable plethora of mind-altering substances. In many instances, these drugs are more harmful than illicit drugs bought on the street. A growing number of youths are seeking highs from household products including inhalants, dextromethorphan, nutmeg, and anticholinergics, seriously damaging their health and putting themselves at risk of permanent damage, addiction, and death. Fortunately, treatment based on activity replacement is effective.

There are many reasons why young people seek highs from illicit and dangerous substances. Many look for an escape from life while others want to experience something new. The primary factors that determine whether an adolescent uses drugs or not are peer and family influences. Children who have parents that use drugs are more likely to use drugs themselves than children who are not around that influence. However, even if a youth does not have peers or family that who use drugs, they are still influenced by the media.

American children spend more time in front of a television than on any other activity. While watching television, they are learning how to behave. Many shows glamorize the use of drugs. In recent years, though, an increasing number of anti-drug commercials are being broadcasted. Regardless, television media remains a major negative influence on youths.
If a youth is swayed to try drugs, there are a myriad of opportunities. Potential drugs may reside in the refrigerator, under the kitchen sink, in bathroom cupboards, and in other locations throughout a house. Each category of drug has different effects on the mind and body; therefore, each must be described separately.

Inhalant abuse, commonly referred to as whippits, huffing, bagging, or sniffing, are chemicals such as spray paint, lighter fluid, and rubber cement applied to rags or bags so that the fumes may be inhaled. These fumes produce a euphoric state of mind and a sense of well being. Inhalants have been abused since the early 1900s and are commonly the first drugs people use. In fact, 20 percent of young people have tried inhalants before the eighth grade. Inhalants are popular because they are cheap, legal, easy to acquire, and produce immediate psychological effects.

Effects of inhalant abuse include dizziness, stupor, impaired judgment, delusions, and euphoria. The side-effects of using inhalants range from minor irritations like tiredness, irritability, and headaches to serious complications-even death. Inhalant abusers risk dying from a variety of disorders including asphyxia, accidental trauma, and aspiration. The majority of inhalant related deaths result from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. Inhalant abuse may not cause death in all cases, but it can cause irreversible damage to the brain, heart, lung, kidney, liver, and bone marrow. In addition to physical damage, inhalant abuse will often lead to the use of more dangerous illicit drugs.

The abuse of inhalants can be identified before serious damage occurs. Paint and oil stains on clothing, bloodshot eyes, a chemical odor on breath, and an overall dazed appearance all indicate abuse. These signs may help in recognizing abuse, but there is no way to test for inhalants like other drugs. Therefore, it is very difficult to diagnose inhalant abuse. Once identified, though, abuse can usually be treated with counseling, support groups, rehabilitation programs, and other conventional methods. Patients sometimes experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those of alcohol withdrawal-nausea, jitteriness, vomiting, and sleeping problems. Abusers who experience withdrawal need to be monitored closely as these symptoms can last more than a month and relapse rates are high.

Dextromethorphan is beginning to become as popular as inhalants. Dextromethorphan, referred to as DXM, dex, robo, and CCC, is a chemical found in many cough and cold medications like Robitussin and Coricidin. When used legitimately, dextromethorphan acts as an effective cough suppressant. However, adolescents are using dextromethorphan recreationally all around the world. Abuse has been reported for over 30 years in the United States, Sweden, Germany, Australia, and other countries throughout the world. In addition, deaths caused by dextromethorphan have been reported in Sweden.
Youths abuse the drug for the hallucinations and euphoria it produces. The high has been compared to that of LSD or acid. In addition to hallucinations and euphoria, dextromethorphan can cause feelings of floating, increased awareness, and disorientation. These mild effects may be accompanied by nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and even coma. After the high has diminished, dextromethorphan can produce insomnia and depression. However, dextromethorphan is far less dangerous than the other chemicals found in Coricidin and Robitussin. Chlorpheniramine, for example, can cause agitation, coma, seizures, and hypertension. The most dangerous chemical in these products is bromide. Chronic use of dextromethorphan could result in bromide poisoning, which damages the gastrointestinal tract, central nervous system, and skin. Toxicity of the brain, heart, liver, and other organs is also common with long term abuse.

Damage can be prevented by diagnosing abuse early. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to test for dextromethorphan. Abuse is indicated by lethargy, slurred speech, dilated pupils, and vomiting. Once abuse has been identified, activated charcoal can be used to absorb toxins when dextromethorphan has recently been ingested. Psychological dependence can sometimes develop and may last from months to even years. Addiction can be treated with the traditional methods. Patients may experience withdrawal symptoms including insomnia and depression.

A less frequently abused but equally hazardous drug is Nutmeg. Nutmeg is the dried seed of the Myristica Fragrans tree that is commonly imported from the Caribbean islands of Grenada and Trinidad. This herb has many practical applications in cooking and medicine. Nutmeg has been used for around nine centuries, but the first recorded case of intoxication was in 1576. Since then, there has been at least one death caused by a nutmeg overdose.

The main active ingredient in nutmeg is myristicin, although scientists speculate that there are other ingredients contributing to the intoxicating effects. Doses of five or more grams of nutmeg are considered acute nutmeg poisoning. In doses of five to fifteen grams of shredded or powdered nutmeg, effects are similar to those of amphetamines, including euphoria, visual distortions, and hallucinations in higher doses. This high is not without consequences, though. Nutmeg can cause dehydration, body pain, nausea, fever, and even convulsions. Large doses put the user at risk of Nutmeg Psychosis which is a psychiatric disorder characterized by hallucinations, excitement, irritability, and depression. There is no immediate cure to Nutmeg Psychosis, so the patient will need to wait 24 to 36 hours for effects to subside. High doses also put the user at risk of irreversible liver damage.

The negative effects of nutmeg abuse outweigh the hallucinogenic and euphoric high. Nutmeg is notably foul-tasting in such large amounts. Once ingested, nutmeg has unpredictable results which are less favorable compared to traditional hallucinogens. For these reasons, nutmeg is generally not regarded as a substance at a high risk of abuse. Furthermore, nutmeg is not addictive. This means that there are no withdrawal symptoms. Since nutmeg does not cause physical addiction or withdrawal symptoms, patients are usually not treated with rehabilitation programs or support groups. They may have the contents of their stomach removed, though.

A less obscure group of household drugs is the anticholinergic group. Anticholinergics are drugs prescribed to effectively relieve nausea, motion sickness, allergies, and other ailments in life. Unfortunately, they are equally effective when abused for mind-altering effects. They are most popular with regular drug abusers and curious youths looking for a cheap high. Dramamine, a motion sickness and nausea medication, and Benadryl, a decongestant and antihistamine, are both commonly abused household drugs.

Anticholinergics and other nonprescription drugs are abused for the euphoria, hallucinations, and pleasurable high they produce. They also tend to produce a sensation of excitement. In addition to excitement, these drugs can negatively affect concentration, and cause light-headedness and constipation. Anticholinergics are the most dangerous class of all drugs of abuse. Misuse of there drugs can cause comas, cardiac arrhythmia, and death. High doses cause severe confusion and can occasionally stimulate aggressive and violent behavior.

Anticholinergics are also addictive substances. Chronic users will experience cravings between their doses. In periods of withdrawal, depression, irritability, loss of appetite, amnesia, and nausea occur. These symptoms will eventually diminish after a period of abstinence. Traditional treatment like rehabilitation programs and support groups is generally supportive. Unfortunately, there are websites on the internet that glamorize the effects of Anticholinergics and even provide methods for abusing them. More education in schools about these drugs may help curb the number of accidents and overdoses.
All of the aforementioned household drugs are harmful and potentially habit-forming, so treatment and prevention are very important. Education is the fundamental concept usually applied in both treatment and prevention. Education is employed by schools and guardians to inform adolescents of the risks and consequences of drug abuse.

Education is also used in treatment of a drug addiction to inform addicts of alternatives to drug use. Many treatment programs involve four elements of alternatives: giving alternative activities, relating activities to individual needs, increasing involvement in current activities, and organizing youth activity groups. These concepts, when both applied to treatment programs and taught in schools, are successful in treating current additions and preventing future addictions.

A major cause of adolescent drug use is boredom and the desire to experiment. By providing alternative activities, youths are given an opportunity to experience the fulfillment that was usually produced by drugs. This also gives these adolescents something to work for that can’t be compromised by drug use. Involvement in religious activities has proven to be helpful in this way.

The next aspect of alternative treatment is teaching young people how to fulfill their individual needs without abusing substances. Different people seek different things from drugs. Some are looking for an escape while others want a cure for boredom. If professionals are able to identify what youths want to get from drugs, they can supplement this need with alternative activities. For example, emotional needs may be met with group therapy and counseling while physical needs could be fulfilled with athletics or exercise.

In addition to alternative activities, attention must be paid to the current activities. If a drug user is still involved in a healthy activity, treatment should include reinforcing participation in said activities. This would help limit the amount of time, energy, and even inclination an individual has to abuse substances. Also, like with providing alternative programs, this method will give adolescents something to strive for.

Finally, youth based activity groups may be implemented in treatment of drug abuse. The adolescents in the groups encounter similar problems and can support each other while they undergo treatment. They will be held accountable by their peers if they relapse. Additionally, participants will have less time or energy to fall back into drugs. Therefore, the benefits of these groups are clear .

When banning drugs leads to household drug abuse, there may never be a complete solution to drug use. Many substances all around the house can be abused for a high at the risk of serious, irreversible damage and even death. The four main categories of household drugs are inhalants, dextromethorphan, nutmeg, and anticholinergics. These substances are cheap, easy to acquire, and produce powerful highs. For these reasons, household drugs must be given the same attention as illicit drugs.

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