Huffing: When Everyday Household Chemicals Kill Teenagers

The fourth most commonly abused substance among 8th – 12th graders in the United States may not be what you think. It is not alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. The fourth most commonly abused substance by this group of teenagers is inhalants.

According to, huffing is defined as “purposeful inhalation of chemical vapors to achieve a feeling of euphoria.” If you do not think that your local high school is affected by this type of substance abuse, think again. Nearly 17 million people have experimented with inhalants at least one point in their lives. Eighteen per cent of 8th graders have admitted that they have tried huffing to get a high at least once in their lifetime. Alternative words for “huffing” are sniffing, dusting and glading.

Common household items used for huffing include, but are not limited to: hairspray, rubber cement glue, furniture polish, air fresheners, spray paint, paint thinners, propane gas, correction fluid, cleaning fluids and aerosol whipped cream propellants.

In all, there are over 1400 known substances that are capable of being huffed. Due to the fact that most of these items are readily available in most homes makes it harder for parents to know if their child is experimenting with huffing. There is no need for the teenager to “hide” the evidence. Teenagers who may never try illegal drugs, may try huffing due to the ease of access to the chemicals.

Dangerous chemicals

With it being so easy for teens to hide the evidence, you may wonder what the signs are that your child may be huffing. Common signs of inhalant abuse include: red, runny eyes or nose, chemical breath, slurred speech, drunk appearance, sweating, correction fluid on nose, fingers or clothes, apathy and paranoia. Another thing to look for is cotton balls/rags and plastic bags with a chemical odor.

Huffing can cause many physical and mental complications. Complications associated with huffing are cardiac arrhythmia’s, suffocation, damage to the optic nerve, kidney damage, liver damage, heart disease, breathing disruptions and asphyxia.

Huffing is known to also cause death. In 2001 Indiana teen, David Manlove, died at the young age of 15 after huffing computer duster. You can read his memorial here. In July of 2009, a 19 year old woman died after huffing air freshener. She was found in her home approximately eight hours after her huffing related death.

Huffing is more common than most of us would like to believe it is. Teenagers, do not fall into the peer pressure of huffing or any other substance abuse. It could end your life before you are able to show this world what you are capable of! Parents, do not be naive. Talk to your teenagers about the dangers of huffing and other substance abuse today.