Inhalant abuse amongst military soldiers is becoming a more prevalent issue in the world today. Statistics show that inhalants are the third most commonly abused substances by soldiers in the military. One of the biggest problems with huffing inhalants is that they are easily obtained and using can be very well hidden.
Is There Awareness?
The United States Military has a booklet titled Health Behaviors of Our Troops. Inside are 3 chapters that are all about substance abuse, there is not one mention of inhalants. This is a real problem, because there is no awareness about the consequences of huffing dangerous inhalants.
What are Inhalants?
Inhalants are substances that are in the form of gas aerosols or solvents. They are inhaled as a vapor to create intoxicating effects. Inhalants are inexpensive and legally available. They are found in household, office, industrial, and automotive products.
Inhalants are cheap and can be bought at nearly any store and are not found in drug tests. Today in Iraq, soldiers are huffing inhalants to get high, and this is causing many problems amongst them; there have even been some reported casualties due to use.
What is Huffing?
Huffing is when the person inhales the gas or vapors that are created from the product. Through huffing or inhaling, the chemical replaces the oxygen in a person’s lungs and blood and deprives the brain of oxygen. The mild side effects that the user normally wants to experience are euphoria, excitement, lightheadedness, drowsiness, and disorientation.
Which Inhalants are Most Commonly Abused in the Military?
While many types of inhalants are abused by soldiers in the military, products that come in aerosol spray cans are the most common; computer keyboard cleaner or air duster is the most common product that is abused by soldiers. However, spray paint, glue, nail polish, paint thinner, insecticides, and butane are all products that are also abused.
Why Canned Air, Mostly Dust-Off?
Canned air is also known as cleaning duster or air duster. It is used to get rid of dust or dirt that gets trapped in and around objects, especially computers and keyboards. In Iraq and Afghanistan, computer equipment and other objects are constantly getting bombarded with the dessert sand. The military supplies the soldiers with canned air so they can get rid of this sand. The brand of canned air that these soldiers inhale is usually “Dust- Off”.
Nearly all military bases carry Dust- Off and soldiers are able to purchase as much as they want without any bells going off. Since soldiers can get this canned air very easily and there are absolutely no signs of using it, it becomes the perfect substance to get high on, but perfect to become addicted to as well.
Canned air is an abused inhalant because it contains compressed difluoroethane. This is a gas that affects the central nervous system and creates a sense of euphoria.
What are the Reasons for Huffing
It is common for soldiers in the military to have emotional problems; such as, depression and loneliness. While alcohol, prescription medications, and other drugs may be obtainable, they are also detectable. Dust off, other brands of canned air, and other types of inhalants are not detectable and very easy to obtain; most are legal.
When huffing on these inhalants, the euphoria that a soldier will feel may seem to help their emotional problems. What they may not understand is how dangerous huffing can be. According to statistics three percent of US Military soldiers abuse and have an addiction to inhalants. For those who are overseas, many of them are returning home with health problems and addictions to these and other drugs as a result of their constant use and abuse.
Effects of Inhalant Abuse
Inhaling or huffing substances produce effects that are similar to alcohol intoxication. The initial effects of huffing may include; euphoria, drowsiness, lightheadedness, and a loss of inhibition. Further abuse huffing inhalants can cause soldiers to have dizziness, delusions, impaired judgment, and apathetic feelings. Long term abuse of huffing inhalants can have damaging health consequences.
Soldiers in the military may have extreme depression, mood changes, weight loss, lack of coordination, weakness, irritability, and inattentiveness The most serious health consequences that a soldier may experience when abusing inhalants can include; permanent brain and organ damage, convulsions, and even death. A military soldier may experience serious and even irreversible damage to their organs; such as, their heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Brain damage from huffing can cause personality changes, impaired cognitive functioning, and memory loss.
Addiction to Inhalants
As a soldier continues to abuse inhalants, they will need more to experience the same effects that they are used to getting. Once a person becomes addicted to inhalants, it is very difficult to break their addiction. It will take over their life and getting more and more will become their only concern.
The Real Danger of Huffing Canned Air, Death
When inhaling the gas found in canned air, it deprives the brain of oxygen. This creates the high that soldiers are after and the reason that it is abused. However, huffing too much canned air can cause an overdose. An overdose can cause heart failure and can even be fatal. Death can occur from heart failure, asphyxiation, aspiration, or suffocation.
Huffing on an inhalant can cause death on the first use, second use, third use, and so on; it can happen at any time.
Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has said that the biggest danger in regards to huffing or inhaling is Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. This is when a person dies within a few seconds of huffing or inhaling a substance.