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March 18 to 24 is National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week

PROVO, UTAH (March 16, 2012) -- Nine percent of Utah County eighth graders admitted to abusing inhalants at some time during their life according to a recent school based survey. The Student Health And Risk Prevention survey (or SHARP) reported that eighth to twelfth graders state-wide reported similar levels of nine percent, while nationally 13 percent of students reported abusing inhalants. National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week is a great time for parents to teach their children about the dangers of inhalant abuse.

"Huffing" is when individuals intentionally breathe gas or vapors for the purpose of getting a high. "Parents often hear of youth huffing paint and glue, but probably don't realize that there are more than 1,000 products that are very dangerous when inhaled," said Kye Nordfelt, Utah County Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team (SMART) Coordinator. "Products like typewriter correction fluid, air-conditioning refrigerant, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane and even cooking sprays are abused by youth nationally."

"Depending upon level of dosage, the user can experience slight stimulation, feeling of less inhibition or loss of consciousness," said Nordfelt. "But the user can also damage their brain, heart, kidneys, liver, bone marrow, and other organs. Death can also occur from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome."

"It is important to know that inhalants are not drugs, they are breathable toxic chemicals," said Marty Malheiro, Utah Poison Control Center outreach education coordinator. "Abusing inhalants has immediate as well as long term negative physical and mental consequences. For example, even the first time, can cause "sudden sniffing death" syndrome. At the Poison Control Center we do get calls reporting inhalant abuse."

Sergeant Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff's Office and SMART member has witnessed the impact of abuse first hand. "There is a real risk of harm huffing these substances. I have seen residents in this community abusing who are unresponsive and unable to make good decisions."

"Huffing can also lead to experimentation with other drugs," said Cannon.

March 18th though 24th is National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week and is a great time to raise awareness of this important issue. "Parents should take the time to understand the risks and educate their children about the harmful effects of these products," said Nordfelt.

He also suggested locking up products when not in use, or at the very least monitoring potential huffing products. "So many things can be used for huffing it is hard to keep track of everything, but if you suddenly notice you are going through a lot more markers, that could send up red flag." Nordfelt points to www.inhalants.org or www.drugfree.org for resources and suggestions on how parents can educate themselves as well as get ideas for talking with their children about the risks associated with huffing. The Utah Poison Control Center also offers lesson plans for teachers, parents, and others regarding inhalants on their web site at http://uuhsc.utah.edu/poison/publiced/inhalant.htm.

Individuals interested in participating in SMART, a substance abuse prevention coalition, are encouraged to contact Kye Nordfelt at
801-851-7181. You can also follow SMART at www.Facebook.com/smart.utah.