Most parents are aware that drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and cocaine can have a negative effect on the body. But what about everyday products found in your home such as bleach, glue and paint? Did you know that these items, while not drugs, could be abused by sniffing them? This is referred to as inhalant abuse, which is the deliberate inhaling or sniffing of common products found in the home or at school to obtain a high.
As part of the National Council on Substance Abuse’s (NCSA) ongoing efforts to promote healthy, drug free lives, primary school children across the island are taught how to differentiate between harmful and healthy substances that they could put in their mouths. Developed by Drug Education Officer Wendy Greenidge, the program, called “Safe and Unsafe”, explores the dangers of everyday household products. Over 1300 Infants B children aged 6-7, are given the opportunity to demonstrate their decision-making skills by identifying and evaluating a variety of objects. They probe the areas of inhalants, alcohol, tobacco and the appropriate use of medication and are encouraged to read labels and to recognise DANGER and CAUTION signs & symbols to help them determine measures of safety.
The programme incorporates visual and tactile learning aides and is well received by the children and their teachers. Students are asked to name things that were good for the body and to list things that were okay to put into their mouths. The children are encouraged to place the safe and unsafe items into their respective bags and explain to their classmates why they made that choice. This helps to reinforce that not everything is suitable to consume or sniff.
Parents can reduce the likelihood of their children abusing household items by first talking with them about the dangers of misusing these products. In addition, parents should prevent the easy and unsupervised use of the following most commonly abused items: spray paint, marking pens, adhesives, glue, liquid paper and nail polish remover.
Persons who abuse and misuse products other than for what they were designed run the risk of severe damage to the brain, kidneys, heart and liver and in some instances, death. Users may become nauseated, forgetful, suffer from blurred vision and temporarily lose control over their limbs. In more severe case, sniffing related deaths have resulted in cardiac arrest with the victim experiencing rapid but uneven heart rhythms. This results in a heart attack and in some instances, death. Even first time users can die from inhalant abuse.
Signs of inhalant abuse:
- Unusual breath or chemical odour on clothing
- Signs of paint or other products where they are not normally kept
- Nausea and / or loss of appetite
- Constantly smelling clothing or sleeves
Talk to your children about the correct way to use common household products such as bleach and markers. You can make it fun activity as described in the “Safe & Unsafe” program. Call the NCSA on 429-6272 for further information and assistance.