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Huffing: What Every Parent Needs to Know

February 6, 2015

Huffing: What Every Parent Needs to Know

What is Huffing? 

Huffing, also known as inhalant abuse, is when people breathe in chemicals through the nose or mouth to get high. Hair spray, air conditioner Freon, paint thinner, correction fluids and leather cleaner are some chemicals that are often abused. The allure of huffing for many teens is that it is a cheap and accessible way to get high.

The Risks of Huffing

Although huffing can bring teens a few minutes of euphoria, it can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening side effects such as: 

  • Hallucinations
  • Mood changes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Liver damage
  • Memory loss
  • Permanent brain damage

In some instances, huffing can lead to fatalities. According to the Texas Commission on Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, inhalant abuse can kill individuals from:

  • Choking – Inhalant abuse can cause teenagers to vomit, which puts them at risk for choking to death on their own vomit.
  • Suffocation – Death by suffocation often occurs when people use plastic bags for  huffing.
  • Asphyxia – Certain types of gases can cause a teen to stop breathing from a lack of oxygen.
  • Sudden sniffing death- Many people don’t realize that inhalants can make the body sensitive to adrenaline. Sudden sniffing death occurs  when chemicals from the inhalants cause the heart to beat rapidly and irregularly,  then causing the hear to stop beating  entirely.

Signs That Your Teenager is Huffing

Now that you know about the dangers of huffing, you may be wondering to yourself, “How do I know if my teenager is huffing?” It can be easy for teenagers to hide the fact that they are abusing inhalants, but there a few signs that you should be on the lookout for: 

  • Incoherent speech
  • Confusion
  • Empty containers of the chemicals that are being huffed
  • Hidden rags or clothing around their room
  • Lack of coordination
  • Aggressive behavior

Inhalant abuse can also cause withdrawal symptoms such as sleep disturbances, sweating nausea and irritability.

What should you do if you suspect that your son or daughter is abusing inhalants? The first thing to do is stay calm and ask them if they are huffing.  If they admit that they are huffing, this could be a sign of a more serious problem, such as substance use disorder or depression

After you speak with your teenager, the next step is to contact a licensed medical professional. They can then recommend the appropriate treatment option, whether that is outpatient treatment or a residential treatment center. 


To learn more about the treatment options for teens, please give us a call at (844) 319-5239. We are here to answer your questions 24/7.

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