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Chroming is more prevalent than parents may realise: What to watch out for these school holidays


Woolworths and other outlets have recently taken steps to lock up aerosol deodorants due to chroming concerns. The fact that supermarkets have done this probably means it is more prevalent that most parents are aware. So, with holidays looming it’s important we realise that good kids, can make some poor decisions. We want to be eyes wide open. I don’t want parents to be oblivious to why their deodorants are going missing!

I have answered some basic questions parents ask below as to what chroming is, how it is impacting our kids, and what we should be looking out for. I encourage you to ask your kids these questions too, as a way of opening up conversations that matter. And my to-go for all things drugs and alcohol is Paul Dillon (DARTA). You can find his podcasts here which discuss chroming, and many other related topics.

What is chroming?  

Chroming (huffing, sniffing) is when someone inhales chemical substances, typically though their nose or mouth. They can in haled or sprayed directly, or transferred to a plastic bag or another bottle before being inhaled.

The most common substances are household products like glue, aerosol sprays, paints, cleaning products, liquid paper or petrol. They usually give the user an immediate rush or high, and then slow down the nervous system as they move through the body.  Basically, the aim is to alter the state of mind.

Chroming can have serious effects and there is a real risk of accidents, suffocation, loss of consciousness, paralysation of wind passages or death (sudden sniffing death).

What are the physical risks?  

Chroming brings with it a lot of unpleasant side effects, so users commonly experience and then stop. For most, it is a social, thrill seeking experience, rather than as a pleasurable experience. Inhaling volatile substances can lead to short-term euphoria, dizziness, and disorientation. But it can also have severe health consequences, including damage to the brain, and other organs like the liver and kidneys.

What are some symptoms to look out for?  

Signs vary for each individual, but here are some to look out for:

  • Chemical odour
  • Unexplained mood swings, aggression
  • Dizziness, confusion, nausea, headaches or chemical burns around the mouth or nose
  • Weight loss
  • Paint or stain residue
  • Slurred speech
  • Clumsy, lack of coordination
  • Headaches as part of withdrawals
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Discovery of unusual chemical products

What about the impact of their time online?

These days peer pressure is not just experienced in face to face relationships. This is something we often forget as adults because we didn’t grow up with the same desires to be a part of online communities. Our teens might not only be exposed to chroming on social media platforms and they might also desire to participate in online chroming “challenges” or community groups.

What to do if you learn your child or someone close to your child’s circle is chroming?

  • Breathe. What you say and do matters. These are your moments to shine as a parent, and will be remembered forever.
  • Drug use usually coincides with other challenges teens are facing, so consider the big picture before you address the specific one. If this is new, unusual behaviour ask yourself what could be driving the behaviour. Be curious. Ask why? Ask, could you be missing something?
  • Increase connection time and compassion, and never underestimate the power of your PRESENCE as opposed to your PARENTING.
  • In most cases, peers will play a role. What makes sense to a 14 year old when they are surrounded by peers OR alone and feeling unstable due to lack of peers, doesn’t always make sense through the eyes of us as adults.
  • Educate yourself so you have some common language to use in discussions.
  • Safety is your priority. It’s time for you to stand between them and harm’s way, in the most collaborative and compassionate way possible.  Focus on your ‘next best step’ rather than solving things in one conversation.
  • Your stability matters. If you need support, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. The more stable the environment kids have during these difficult moments the better…and you matter too! Remember, who you are in these moments will always trump the “particulars” of what you do.

Remember Helplines

It is not always easy or appropriate to confide in family or friends when our kids are struggling, and the wait list to see a professional may be long. Please don’t forget to utilise our free services. A comprehensive list of drug related helplines are available here.

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