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In a recent article in Queensland’s Courier Mail, It literally melts kids’ brains the issue of ‘chroming’ or inhalant use has been put back on the public radar. Whilst this issue has never disappeared, it does come to public attention when harms grow.

Hospitalisations for teenagers suffering from chroming sickness have increased for the fifth straight year as a teacher’s call to ban an aerosol deodorant linked to the devastating habit goes unheard.

Hospitalisations have increased by 40 per cent among people under 19 and are up 11 per cent overall from the 2018/19 to 2019/20.

There were 115 people put in Queensland hospitals 157 times due to chroming, 63 of them were 19 years and under.

Queensland Children’s Hospital Emergency Physician Dr Daniel Bodnar has seen the increase first-hand with children as young as 12 hospitalised for chroming related illness.

“What really worries me is the long-term effects, these solvents are like paint strippers, and much like a paint stripper melts the paint off a paint brush, that’s what it does to people’s brains,” Dr Bodnar said.

“It literally melts the special lining of the nerve cells in the brain which leads to major problems down the track like they can’t think properly and their IQ goes down,” he said.

“The brain is very slow to heal and the idea is the more exposed to it the more likely long term damage will be done,” he said.

“It’s just horrible, you can actually see evidence of it on scans.”

Inhalant issues can come and go, depending on several influencing factors and their potential influence on use. For example, the 2007 ‘Graffiti Prevention Act’ (Victoria that came into effect in 2008) saw the restrictions on sales of spray paint to minors. The term ‘Chroming’ was synonymous with inhalant activity with spray paint products being the primary, but not sole source of inhalant activity.

Dalgarno Institute staff have had firsthand experience with young people who used inhalants extensively prior to this injunction, and the fatal capacity of inhalant use, with one young 16 y.o client dying on a train station platform after a single inhalant episode.

Other factors can contribute to decline in use, such as easier access to other illicit drugs or cheaper and easily accessible alcohol. If other substances are either more readily available, cheaper, or easier to access, this can divert from inhalant use. 

Of course, determinants of engagement with inhalant or another our mood/mind altering substance remain many and varied.

Whilst trauma, neglect and abuse can be key social determinants of use, so are other factors such as tacit permission modes for substance engagement that pro-drug advocates are promulgating via ‘inevitability’ and even ‘right’ messaging on substance use. Also underlying much of the substance engagement issue remains, meaninglessness, purposelessness and the boredom and hedonic activities these can precipitate.

 

‘Grown Ups’ and Inhalants.

Inhalant use is not the purview of the hapless teen alone. There are more ‘sophisticated versions’ of inhalant use in the marketplace parading as psycho-social and psycho-sexual enhancement vehicles. One common genre is ‘Poppers’.

This chemical amyl nitrite has been prescribed by doctors in the past to people with heart conditions. Whilst currently it is used to treat cyanide poisoning.

Yet, this inhalant may also be ‘embellished’ with various chemicals and can be cryptically marketed as a ‘room deodorizers’ or ‘leather cleaners’. However, in certain jurisdictions, it can be sold as a ‘party supplement’ such as Jungle Juice Platinum or Double Scorpio Honey.

In the summary of a 2020 Medical News Today Article, the risks of harms from this substance are very concerning;

Poppers can cause serious side effects, and some reactions can be fatal. Considering the possible adverse effects, the best option is not to use poppers. The risks outweigh the short-lived high of the drug.

Personal stories of short and long-term harms of this inhalant are real, growing, and disturbing.

One website dedicated to warning against this inhalant use is The Truth About Poppers and is aimed at not only creating awareness but providing a forum for those who have experienced the harms of this dangerous practice and want to warn their friends and loved ones of the harms of this substance.

For further information on inhalant use and its harms to children and families

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