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Safety Alert For Parents & Teens

by the Social Diary Special Safety Educator Columnist Monica Zech
Column #1, January 3rd, 2006

From Monica Zech Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon, Police and Fire Department.
(Note:) It came to my attention of an incident in El Cajon when of a young teen driver decided to "huff" while driving. As a result the driver passed out and drove through the front of someone's home coming to rest in a bedroom after driving over a bed. Luckily the family was gathered in another part of the home. Both the family and driver escaped injury - but the home was declared unsafe and the family had to find temporary housing. Firecrews and Police were amazed no one was injured or killed looking at the resulting damage. I strongly feel "education" is the key to prevention. Hopefully the following article will be that education to preventing a similar incident. As a driving safety lecturer I educate my audiences that being 100% alert behind the wheel is an absolute must to avoid traffic collisions. I was both shocked and saddened this incident even occurred, but very thankful no one was killed or injured.

Quick Reference: Teens & Inhalants
From www.drugstory.com a great reference for the hard facts on drug use and abuse.
The following information is excerpted from the resources compiled as part of Drugstory's Special Feature "Teens & Inhalants"

Fast Stats

" Inhalants are one of the few substances abused more by younger children than by older ones.
" Between 2000 and 2001, the number of people age 12 and older having used inhalants at least once in their lifetime rose by roughly 1.5 million, to over 18 million users.
" Approximately 20 percent of eighth-graders have abused inhalants with about 6 percent of U.S. children having tried inhalants by the time they reached fourth grade.
" Inhaling dangerous products is becoming one of the most widespread problems in the country. It is as popular as marijuana with young people.
" Ongoing inhalant abuse is associated with failure in school, delinquency, and an inability to achieve societal adjustment. There is evidence that withdrawal symptoms can occur and that inhalant abuse can lead to the abuse of other substances.
" Prolonged sniffing of the highly concentrated chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can induce irregular and rapid heart rhythms and lead to heart failure and death within minutes of a session of prolonged sniffing.
" The most significant toxic effect of chronic exposure to inhalants is widespread and long-lasting damage to the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
" Symptoms exhibited by long-term inhalant abusers include weight loss, muscle weakness, disorientation, inattentiveness, lack of coordination, irritability, and depression.

How can inhalant abuse be recognized? Early identification and intervention are the best ways to stop inhalant abuse before is causes serious health consequences. Parents, educators, family physician and other health care practitioners should be alert to:

*Chemical odors on breath or clothing, paint or other stains on face, hands or clothing. Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing. The product of "Dust Off" was being used in the traffic incident mentioned earlier.

Research Excerpts

"Inhalant abuse is the intentional inhalation of a volatile substance for the purpose of achieving a euphoric state. It is also known as solvent abuse, volatile substance abuse, glue sniffing, sniffing, and huffing. Beginning with children as young as 6 years of age, it is an under recognized form of substance abuse with a significant morbidity and mortality."

The fumes of the product may be inhaled directly from a container - usually through the mouth, with several deep inspirations required to produce euphoria. Inhalants are depressants and are pharmacologically related to anesthetic gases. In fact, some anesthetic gases, such as ether and nitrous oxide, are also abused. The immediate effects of inhalant abuse are similar to the early classic stages of anesthesia. The user is initially stimulated, uninhibited, and prone to impulsive behavior. Speech becomes slurred, and the user's gait becomes staggered. Euphoria, frequently with hallucinations, is followed by drowsiness and sleep, particularly after repeated cycles of inhalation - or could result with instant death.
Note: Parents - talk to your children on the dangers mentioned in this article. - Monica Zech

* Monica Zech is the Public Information Officer and Safety Educator for the City of El Cajon and for El Cajon Police and Fire Departments. For safety tips please visit El Cajon Fire.com In community work, Zech is the Vice President on the board for the Trauma Research Education Foundation-TREF and a board member with Communities Against Substance Abuse-CASA. In March, Monica received the County's 2005 Individual Health Champion Award for her safety lectures in the community and throughout the county. Zech's Web Site


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