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It’s not as harmless as you might think

July 22, 2012
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center , Salem News

LISBON - Helium makes your voice sound like a mouse. It's always seemed to be a harmless enough thing to do: swig helium from a balloon and talk. Everyone laughs. But the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) advises it's NOT safe. In fact, it has been known to cause death.

The activity is actually called "huffing." Huffing is inhaling household products like gasoline, glue, hair spray, butane from lighters, etc. Effects from huffing can be weight loss, muscle weakness, irritability. It can cause the user to become disoriented, depressed, or even die.

Helium is an inert gas. When breathed into the lungs it can replace oxygen and cause dizziness or blackout, sometimes cardiac arrest. People, even teens, have died because of this "entertaining" activity that parents have shared with their children and teachers, scout leaders, youth pastors and others have encouraged and have not realized was a bad idea, even a dangerous one.

According to data on deaths, NIPC advises a significant number of deaths due to helium huffing prompting a movement to make tough laws to regulate the gas. That doesn't mean everyone would follow the laws, or that laws would eliminate the problem. Education and prevention of helium and other huffing agents might be the higher, more effective road to take. If it isn't helium, someone who wants to huff will find something to meet their needs.

Parents of young people whose deaths were related to helium huffing are speaking out to other parents that they need to understand the danger involved before they, too, are burying a child from that cause. Knowing the risks can make a difference.

Boston University's Join Together notes that "Unknowing adults demonstrate and often provide helium for kids at parties, or science teachers use it in classes to demonstrate the effects of a gas on vocal cords.

"Everybody does it" is not a good enough reason to abuse helium.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says inhalants are the easiest and first options for abuse among young children. In 2008 there were 729,000 persons aged 12 and older who abused inhalants, apparently most abused between 7th and 9th grades. In 2009 prevalence for inhalant abuse was 12- to 17-year-olds, but peaking among 14-year-olds.

Inhalants reach the bloodstream quickly through the lungs and hit the brain and other organs. NIDA reports, "Within seconds of inhalation the user experiences intoxication, along with other effects similar to those produced by alcoholslurred speech, uncoordinated movement, euphoria, and dizziness. In addition, users may experience light-headedness, hallucinations and delusion."

NIDA also advises that the danger is great because the high doesn't last very long so the abuser inhales the harmful substance over a period of hours.

Life is full of challenges. Substance abuse doesn't have to be one of those challenges.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and other mental health issues. For more information, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Contact the FRC Education Department, 330-424-0531 for information about prevention programs. FRC is funded by United Way of Northern Columbiana County and the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

 
 

 

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