Teens hooked on ‘huffing’

2019-06-03 10:35
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Many people firmly believe that for treatment to be successful, addicts must want treatment. And, before the addicts can want that treatment, they have to hit rock bottom.

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A dangerous fad is on the rise.

Parents and caregivers have been warned to hide household products like aerosols sprays, paint thinners, cooking spray, markers and nail polish remover as “huffing” is said to be growing in popularity.

Huffing, which is slang for inhaling chemical vapours — often household goods — for a “buzz”, is on the increase and a significant number of youngsters in the city are already hooked.

Experts say street children are not the only ones sniffing inhalants — it is becoming a dangerous practice among teens across social classes.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (Sanca) website, huffing causes a sense of euphoria that lasts about 15 to 45 minutes.

But Pietermaritzburg-based general practitioner Sihle Ngobese has warned that users run the risk of sinus blockage, a desensitised sense of smell, blockage to the lungs and in the long run, cancer.

“It should not be taken lightly,” Ngobese said. “It can be addictive. If too much is inhaled, it can also cause nausea and light-headedness. It should be avoided. If parents suspect their children are huffing, they should try and find out what had led to it and try and stop it.”

Last week, Netwerk 24 reported that one of the country’s top schools in the Western Cape had been shaken by rumours of huffing by some of its pupils.

The report alleged that some rugby players had engaged in huffing while at a rugby tournament in Kimberly. It was allegedly also done by some of the players at their hostel in George.

Addiction psychotherapist Ayo Fatokun said the inhalant abuse rate was climbing among teenagers.

He said although the problem has been around for many years, peer pressure continued, leading more youngsters to experiment.

Fatokun, a program director at Breakthrough Addiction Recovery Centre, said many young people abuse inhalants because it is “cheaper” than alcohol and also “easily accessible”.

“Experimenting with inhalants can be fatal the first time you try it.

“It induces irregular and rapid heart rhythms and this can lead to heart failure and death within minutes of experimenting. This is known as ‘sudden sniffing death’,” Fatokun said.

In 2011, a KZN pupil apparently had a heart attack after inhaling aerosol. The incident happened when the 15-year-old Grade 9 pupil was attending a sleepover at a friend’s house.

“The growing trend is concerning and there’s quite a significant number of pupils who are addicted that have been referred to government facilities for help.

“All parents should be wary of where they household products and monitor their usage by their children.

“If you know that your child is misusing, as a family you should approach a professional to help your child understand their addiction, and work through it,” said Fatokun.

Another drug abuse expert in the city, who asked to remain unnamed, said considering the age of most inhalants abusers, the side effects were dire.

“The human brain is not fully developed until the age of 21. If you are inhaling, you are actually changing the neuro-pathways in the brain to become an addict ...” the expert warned.

She added that huffing required the abuser to go through a period of medically-supervised withdrawal when trying to quit.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  huffing

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