New Worry for Parents: Teens Sniff Trendy Product for Huffing High

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Photo by Andrew Storms | Flikr

One of the most popular body sprays for teenage boys may be used for more than body odor. In fact, some kids like the smell of AXE Body Spray so much they are inhaling it to get high.

“Many parents don’t question a body spray inhalant if kids are huffing because many parents have the scent around them,” said Colleen Creighton from inhalant.org.

Message boards on the Internet are buzzing with questions from parents and teens about this trend.  Some people on Facebook and other websites share instructions on how to use AXE to get high.  Users may soak a towel or a shirt sleeve and breathe it in, while others may spray it directly into their mouths.

Body sprays like AXE are cheap and sold everywhere.  By contrast, Georgia regulates the sale of model glue to anyone under the age of 18. Some states regulate the sale of keyboard dusting sprays, spray paint and nitrous oxide.

The company that makes AXE never intended for the body spray to be abused as an inhalant. But Unilever is so aware of the huffing problem, the company produced this public service announcement and posted it on YouTube:

Unilever’s  Marketing Director ,  Mike Dwyer sent this statement to JJIE.org about their efforts to stop misuse of AXE.

“AXE is committed to playing an important role in keeping consumers safe in all settings. We believe that consumer education is the best way to combat the industry-wide issue of inhalant abuse and that’s why we continue to partner with the Alliance for Consumer Education (www.inhalant.org) in their efforts to curb this problem. Our company has also undertaken our own efforts to educate consumers about the dangers of inhalant abuse through warnings on our Web site, theAXEeffect.com, as well as labels on our aerosol products that clearly spell out the dangers of inhalant abuse."

Inhalant abuse is illegal in the State of Georgia under O.C.G.A. § 16-13-90 thru § 16-13-96 (2010), but many people are confused about the legal definition. D.A.R.E. defines huffing as intentional smelling or breathing in vapors of different chemicals in order to get high.

Inhalant abuse can be difficult to prove.  Some teens believe inhalants are nothing more than canned air. But inhalant.org compares the practice of huffing to playing a game of Russian Roulette.  The canned air contains harmful chemicals, especially in the propellant.  Some kids mask the bitter taste with a powdered sports drink.  And according to Harvey Weiss of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, “The normal tests for substance abuse do not include screening for inhalants whether it's blood, urine or hair samples.”

Some teens will huff almost anything to get high - gasoline, deodorant, hairspray, household cleaners, even canned whipped cream. Surveys show that one in 4 kids nationwide have experimented with huffing by 8th grade ,and 59% of kids knew their friends were huffing at age 12.  “Inhalants are not on a parent’s radar, but they really need to be,” Queshia Bradley, of inhalant.org said.

“With 22% of 6th and 8th graders admitting to abusing inhalants, but only 3% of parents thinking their child has ever abused inhalants – it is clear that this generation of pre-teens and especially their parents have a lot to learn about the lethal nature of inhalant abuse” said Stephen J. Pasireb, President and CEO of The Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

The Mayo Clinic equates huffing with alcohol abuse because it causes agitation, dizziness, loss of coordination and slurred speech. Long term effects include hearing loss, brain damage and heart failure. The National Survey of Drug Use and Health says kids who are depressed are three times more likely to start huffing.  But researchers don’t know how many deaths are linked to inhalant abuse.

Some signs that a child may be huffing:

  • Chemical odors on a kid’s breath or clothing
  • Signs of paint on their fingers or face
  • Spots or sores around their nose or mouth
  • Gasoline or paint soaked rags

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