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'Dusting' no longer just a household chore

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While overall teen drug use is declining, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that inhalant experimentation among this group is on the rise.

Abusers cover up their use, but they often don't have to cover up the product.

Glue, gasoline and household paint are easy for teens to get their hands on, and a growing number of youth are now abusing keyboard cleaner, which is a product used to blow dust and debris out of tight places.

Available at any office supply store, just one breath of this product can kill you.

"There really is nothing more dangerous out there," says Charles Odell, who is a licensed clinical addictions specialist and CEO/Executive Director of the The Dilworth Center for Chemical Dependency located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Taking 'hits' off inhalants like a can of keyboard cleaner is a fast, cheap high.

"Almost as quickly as you become intoxicated, you start clearing up," Odell says. 

While the effects don't last long, 'dusting' as it's called, is particularly popular among young teens who can easily find or buy the cleaner themselves.

Compressed air and chemicals known as fluorinated hydro-carbons are inside each can. 

When shot into an individual's mouth and breathed into the lungs, the gas paralyzes the user for a few minutes, leaving them with a feeling of ecstasy.

Experienced teenagers often share and learn about this practice online.

"Suddenly I have this huge burst of energy, everything feels so good and I keep going. It was so great! Go keyboard cleaner," writes one teen on her blog.  

Another teen writes in his blog, "Everything went into slow motion, my head was spinning, I thought I would die."

According to Odell, there's a good chance this teen could have died.

"These are highly toxic chemicals and, over an extended period of time, can cause not only brain damage, but heart damage as well," Odell warns.

Called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, dusting can severely alter a teen's heartbeat the first time they try it.

"The arrhythmia can kill you," says Dr. Michael Beuhler, medical director of the Carolinas Poison Center.

The more common reaction is that abusers complain of numbness on their tongue and have damaged skin inside the throat and mouth caused by the repeated blast of compressed air.

"It's cold because it's expanding and that can actually end up in frostbite injuries," Beuhler adds.

With a product that is so easy to obtain and hide, this type of inhalant abuse can be hard to detect.

So, what can a parent do to protect their child?

Counselors and doctors agree that parents need to stay on top of all substance abuse trends.

"Try to learn more than you kid and be willing to sit down and have a frank discussion about it," Odell suggests.

Let them know you know about it, and inform them about the risks. Experts say many kids find out about new highs online and that's the same place a parent can find the search history of their home computer.

"Obviously, looking at a history of what your child has been searching for, if you have the ability to do that, will tell you an awful lot about what they're looking for," Beuhler says.

For teens looking for an intense rush, a cheap can of cleaner may be an easy choice, but the cost of this high is often paid for the rest of their life.

Parents, don't be shy to call your teen's school. Teachers and counselors have a good read on what kinds of substances the students are trying and every school is different.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information: 

For a poison emergency, call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

The following information is from MSNBC.com about the 'new killer high' among teens (Source: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8714725/ns/today/t/dusting-new-killer-high-teens/#.ULO-F4afWSo --http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8714725/ns/today/t/dusting-new-killer-high-teens/).

  • Dusting is a term that comes from the cleaning brand "Dust Off".
  • "Huffing" or inhalant abuse has been an issue for years, but "dusting" is the specific use of aerosolized computer keyboard cleaner that contains compressed gas.
  • Kids can buy it themselves.
  • The gas paralyzes the user for several minutes and gives a feeling of euphoria.
  • Dusting and huffing can damage the brain, lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. It can also cause death.
  • A freon type of gas, or fluorinated hydrocarbon is the dangerous ingredient in computer cleaning products.
  • "Sudden sniffing death" occurs when inhaled hydrocarbons cause irregular heart rhythms which leads to sudden fatal cardiac arrest, even in healthy hearts.
  • Some retailers now restrict the sale of computer cleaners to teens over 18 years of age. Many have added warning labels on top of cans.
  • The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found inhalant experimentation occurs earlier than other types of illicit substances, with younger females starting before young males.
  • Inhalant abuse can be hard to detect. Many inhalants (glue, lighter fluid, spray paint) are legal and found inside homes. Abusers cover up the act of inhaling, but not the product.
  • Inhalants are addictive physically and psychologically.
  • Death can occur with first-time use.
  • Warning signs of dusting:
    • Disappearance of the product at a rapid rate
    • Empty cans or containers of chemicals in trash cans
    • Large stashes of a chemical product in the child's room
    • Strange smells on or around a child
    • Residue of the product on a child's clothing or face
    • Complaints of numbness of the tongue, vocal chords or throat
    • Dazed looks or bloodshot eyes

The following information is from a Chicago Tribune report about dusting (Source: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-09/news/ct-met-huffing-issue-20120909_1_inhalants-computer-dust-high-school-students).

  • Overall use of chemical inhalants has held steady in recent years but there are worrying mini-trends: more girls are trying.
  • Dusting produces an intense, almost immediate high. A quick burst of pleasure that's easy to get and easy to hide.
  • Illinois has a law that bars children under 17 from buying products with intoxicating chemicals without a parent's written permission.
  • The spray comes out cold enough to freeze a user's hands or larynx.
  • The chemicals have been implicated in a third of inhalant-related deaths in North Carolina and about two-thirds of those in Florida.

The following information is from Inhalent.org (Source: http://www.inhalant.org/inhalant-abuse/dangers-effects/).

  • Inhaled chemicals rapidly absorb through the lungs into the bloodstream and quickly distribute to the brain and other organs.
  • Short-term effects include: headache, muscle weakness, mood swings, abdominal pain, violent behavior, slurred speech, numbness, tingling hands/feet, nausea, hearing loss, spasms, apathy, impaired judgment, fatigue.
  • Hallucinations can occur.
  • Long-term effects include: weight loss, muscle weakness, depression, potential kidney and liver damage, potential hearing loss, bone marrow and brain damage.
  • Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome is when a child dies the first time (or any time) they try an inhalant.
  • Commonly associated with air conditioning coolant, butane, propane, electronics and chemical aerosols.
  • Associated with cardiac arrest.

 

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