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A quick word on substance abuse

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As parents stay on the lookout for the evil drug dealer who might approach their child on the street, there may be another threat lurking within their own home. There are many chemicals and substances inside our homes that are just as dangerous as the street drugs outside.

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Because they are "common" and "household," there is a perception among young people that they are safe. Of course, we know that using these substances in the manner they were intended for is safe. But even something that has a good purpose can be abused. This happens more than we realize.

Intentionally breathing

chemicals. Why?

Young people and even adults find that when they breathe these substances, they get an immediate "high" feeling. Again, because these are "common" and "household," they push any thought of danger out of their minds and they only think of the immediate pleasure they feel. Monitoring the Future survey showed that only 34 percent of 8th-graders perceived harm in trying inhalants once or twice. Most teens don't see it as dangerous.

My child?

No family is immune from this happening. All it takes is one friend to suggest it, or to see a video of another kid "huffing" on some Web site. According to the Monitoring the Future survey, more 8th graders (15.7 percent) have tried inhalants in their lifetime than any other illicit drug, including marijuana. Another survey shows that the primary abusers of most inhalants are adolescents ages 12 to 17.

It can't be that dangerous.

It is extremely dangerous. All of these extremely toxic substances displace the oxygen that keeps your body healthy and alive (known as hypoxia). Hypoxia can damage cells throughout your body, especially brain cells which are very sensitive.

Additionally, each chemical has its own harmful irreversible effect on the body. Spray paint and glue causes hearing loss. Gasoline and whipped cream dispensers cause limb spasms. Brain damage can happen as a result of breathing spray paints, glues, and dewaxers. And the list goes on.

Inhalants can cause death within minutes of abusing them. When a child breathes in highly concentrated amounts of certain chemicals, it can cause heart failure resulting in death. Also death results from suffocation by displacing the oxygen in the lungs, causing the child to lose consciousness and stop breathing.

What can I do to

prevent this?

You can't put every danger behind a locked door, so communication is very important. Talk with your children about these dangers today. Don't wait until there is a "more convenient" time. Ask your child if any of their friends are using inhalants. Give them the facts. Help them think through the real-life consequences that will happen to them.

Watch for any signs of abuse of these substances like unusual breath odor, slurred speech, dizziness, signs of paint on the face or fingers, red or runny nose, or loss of appetite. Children will often hide empty containers of abused products in closets or other places.

Lock up the can of computer cleaner until you really need it.

What should I do if I find my child abusing inhalants?

Take your child to their pediatrician to have them checked out medically. Find a chemical addiction counselor who can help talk with them about this abuse. It is possible that after getting caught, they will be even more careful next time to hide it from you.

You can find additional information at www.dare.com www.nida.nih.gov inhalants.drugabuse.gov, or call the West Fargo Police Department at 701-433-5500 or visit their Web site at www.westfargopolice.com.

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