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Inhalants: Smells like drugs, acts like drugs, lies like drugs

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Posted: Friday, May 15, 2015 8:21 am

Dear Straight Talk: My little brother is 15. Whenever he enters the room or gets in the car, I smell a strong odor of nail polish, polish remover or paint thinner. My mom and I have gone through his room and found nothing. He’s acting strange, hates school, has no motivation and weird sleeping habits, yet I cannot find proof. We’ve scared him about huffing and he denies it, but he might be lying. How should we approach this? — S., 20, Aurora, Colorado

Samantha, 23, Toledo, Ohio: My brother always said if you have to be suspicious about something, it’s probably true. You and your mom aren’t ignorant people and personality changes combined with inhalant odors is a no-brainer. Start monitoring his activities more. Sure he can find ways around you, but you’ll know you’ve done everything you could. The rest is in God’s hands. Earlier in life when I had tremendous turmoil and my only concern was my next high, I abused the classic air duster. I didn’t care that one wrong tweak could have killed me right then and there. I watched people huff and drop to the floor convulsing with seizures, come to and huff again. Kids know which everyday products will get them high. Parents and teachers need to become equally educated.

Karlee, 17, Bentleyville, Pa.: Around here, huffing isn’t so big. It’s mostly pot and heroin, strange as that sounds. It’s important to make kids aware of the dangers of drugs without glorifying them which just invites risk-taking. Kids benefit knowing the nitty-gritty straight-up details of what something can do. It’s hard to get young males to trust mothers and sisters so make him realize how much you guys love him and sacrifice for him. Peer pressure plays a huge role in drugs, so find friends against it and get them involved. Huffing usually leads to further drug abuse, so stay on this.

Justin, 18, Brentwood: The family member genuinely closest to him should ask him to come clean. Assure him you want to help, not bust or shame him. I find it unusual that people huff when marijuana is so available — not that marijuana is good, I disapprove of all drugs. But to risk death inhaling toxins? If he opens up, you can find out what personal problems are driving this.

Icis, 16, Lehigh Acres, Florida: When teenagers are caught, they shut down. Let him reboot and try less blunt questions: What do you know about huffing? Who do you talk to when you’re troubled? Do you feel confident? These questions provide information without causing a retreat.

Meghan, 20, State College, Pa.: Honestly, scare tactics rarely work. The more dangerous and reckless, the more the appeal. Is he depressed, something going on at school, home? I never huffed, but during a rough period I abused Benadryl to feel high when I couldn’t find anything else. Contact his friends (be friendly and use some psychology). They might not rat, but they could provide clues.

Dear S.: Unfortunately, there is no truth serum (drug test) for huffing. Inhalant chemicals are diverse and leave the system quickly. Huffing tends to be short-lived, replaced by other drugs when the high stops feeling good. Sadly, many user’s lives are short-lived as well. Death can and does come instantly, without warning.

Drugs make people lie, so snoop bigger. Check his texts, social networking sites (translate with, monitor his actions, go public with extended family, his friends and their parents. Boys respond to strong fair authority whereas scare tactics (which often work for girls) generally backfire for boys (risk-taking actually raises a boy’s status). Your family must use every tool you’ve got: snooping, monitoring, going public, and promising/delivering serious consequences. Don’t delay. — Lauren

Ask a question at or P.O. Box 1974, Sebastopol, CA 95473. We are a youth-helping-youth nonprofit. If today’s column was helpful, please consider a donation!



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