of Legal Substances
By Dr. Virginia Yates
Martin Army Community Hospital, Fort Benning, Ga.
Recently a lot of public attention has been brought to the abuse
of common household chemicals as inhalants. This abuse has been
especially popular among children and adolescents.
Items of abuse include spray cans of paint, hair spray, furniture
polish and insecticides. In fact, someone abuses the propellant
gas in almost every kind of spray can.
The small cylinders of nitrous oxide called "whippits,"
for whipped cream, are among the propellants inhaled. Non-spray
items such as gasoline, butane for lighters, adhesives and degreasers
are also inhaled.
The danger in most of these inhalants is that they create a low-oxygen
environment in the brain, sometimes resulting in loss of consciousness
or brain damage. These chemicals can also collect in poisonous amounts
in the brain, liver, kidneys and heart.
An estimated 500 people a year die suddenly from the abnormalities
caused in the heart alone.
The accessibility of such legal and over-the-counter items to children
and teens has led to a growing surge of substance abuse for recreation.
Many consider herbal remedies harmless, yet chemicals such as ephedra
and guarana are being purchased and consumed in large volumes for
a high. Unfortunately, these items can raise blood pressure and
heart rates to dangerously high levels.
The prescription medication Ritalin, intended for Attention-Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder, has gained popularity as a street drug for
recreational use. A recent teen drug-abuse survey found that by
8th grade, 50 percent of children have used alcohol, 14 percent
have used marijuana, and 13 percent have used inhalants. A separate
study found that one in five adolescents has used inhalants by the
Parents are often concerned, but uncertain about how to approach
the problem of substance abuse. The advice promoted by most respected
drug-abuse counselors and several child psychologists is that parents
should bring up the topic in an educational fashion as often as
possible. This is also the method promoted by the group Drug Free
Techniques suggested are stressing to children the benefits of good
health and the disadvantages of substance abuse, beginning at a
very young age.
(Reprinted from the Fort Benning, Ga., Bayonet)