Sniffing craze sparks alert
By MANDEEP SINGH
BAHRAIN's youngsters are putting their health at risk by getting high on a car engine treatment chemical sold openly at petrol stations, garages and maintenance stores, it has been revealed.
It is part of a worrying trend of solvent abuse that doctors say could cause severe long-term damage to children's brain, liver and kidneys.
Several children a month are admitted to hospital for the affects of solvent abuse, according to one doctor.
A leading Bahraini drug specialist is now calling for tougher controls on the sale of volatile substances to minors, describing them as a stepping stone to harder drugs.
"It is known that these are sold to virtually anyone, including kids," said consultant psychiatrist Dr Abdulnabi Derbas.
"The latest revelation is these schoolchildren getting hooked on car engine treatment fluids, easily available at any petrol station or car repair shop."
Dr Derbas was responding to a GDN question about Premium Concentrated Stop, which a group of teenagers was seen passing round and inhaling in Khamis.
It is apparently sold for just BD1 as a treatment for car engines.
Stop is produced by Pennsylvania Petroleum International, whose website warns that it may cause irritation to the gastrointestinal system, irritation to the respiratory system if inhaled, irritation to the skin upon exposure and if it touches the eye could cause redness, tearing or blurred vision.
The company recommends that people use safety glasses and gloves when handling it.
"The problem is that we never get to know how widespread it is, although we know it is a menace," said Dr Derbas, who is head of the Almoayyed Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre at the Psychiatric Hospital.
Dr Derbas said there was virtually no control on youngsters inhaling glue, petrol or substances such as Stop.
The GDN visited several garages in Khamis to ask if they sold cans of Stop to children and was told they sold the product to "whoever asks for it".
Youngsters who are caught sniffing such substances are referred to the Psychiatric Hospital, but Dr Derbas said there were no accurate figures to show how widespread the problem was.
Other substances known to be used by children to get high include paint thinners/removers, dry-cleaning fluid, correction fluid and marker pen fluid.
A toxicologist at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) said that although substances differed in makeup, nearly all abused inhalants produce short-term effects similar to an anaesthetic - slowing down the body's functions.
"When inhaled in sufficient concentrations, inhalants can cause intoxication usually lasting only a few minutes," said the toxicologist, who asked to remain anonymous.
"However, sometimes users extend this effect for several hours by breathing in inhalants repeatedly."
He said users initially feel slightly stimulated, but repeated inhalations make them feel less inhibited and less in control.
"If use continues, users can lose consciousness," he said.
"Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of the chemicals in solvents or aerosol sprays can directly induce heart failure and death within minutes of a session of repeated inhalations."
He said chronic abuse of solvents could cause severe, long-term damage to the brain, the liver and the kidneys.
"Harmful, irreversible effects that may be caused by abuse of specific solvents include hearing loss, damage to the nervous system, limb spasms, brain damage and even bone marrow damage."
from the Gulf Daily News