Thursday, January 11, 2007

Huffing: Tales of trouble

Justin Conner's vehicle bears the scars of a run-in with a utility pole. Conner, 17, Dorchester, and a passenger, Stefan Sova, 16, Staplehurst, sustained injuries in the collision. Both teens were abusing inhalants, or "huffing," at the time.
by Stephanie Croston
Although it may not seem dangerous, huffing can be fatal.
Seward County has seen at least three vehicle accidents within the past two months in which the teens involved were huffing. Huffing involves spraying an aerosol product into the mouth and inhaling.
The first accident involving teens who were huffing happened Nov. 21 when a vehicle drove into the front of Hall of Cards in downtown Seward.
The second happened Dec. 22 between 6 and 6:30 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Justin Conner, 17, of Dorchester was driving that car after huffing for the first time.
"It gives a high and a buzz," Conner said.
Despite that, he felt in control. But he doesn't remember hitting the power pole at the fairgrounds, saying he blacked out.
"We hit so hard, it knocked down power lines," he said.
Conner's jaw hit the steering wheel and his head hit the windshield. Everything in the car shifted to the right upon impact.
Stefan Sova, 16, of Staplehurst was one of the three passengers in the vehicle. He said he had been huffing for a couple months after a friend convinced him to try it. He had also blacked out just before impact.
"I woke up to (my friend) screaming, 'We're going to hit the pole,'" he said.
Sova said his seat unlocked and went forward. He ended up with a broken rib and punctured lung. Both Conner and Sova were wearing seat belts.
Sova said the buzz gives a person a "wierd feeling." For him, his voice deepened, sounds echoed and lights popped in his eyes. When he turned his head, he saw a "freeze-frame effect" where images blurred across his vision.
The effect lasts five to 10 minutes, but Sova said it's not addictive.
"When I look back, it's kind of dumb," he said. "It's cheap and easy."
The Seward rescue squad took Sova to the emergency room, where he was treated by Drs. Hank Newburn and Barbara Froehner.
Inhaling an aerosol product may have other consequences, too. "It could freeze your tongue if it's too close," Conner said.
"Doctors say it could mess you up later and give you mini-strokes," Sova said.
Sova said his friends have stopped huffing, and he won't do it again.
"It's not worth it," he said.
Conner gave the same warning.
"Don't do it," Conner said. "It messes with your brain."
Taken from SCI Online

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pakistan street kids plagued by glue sniffing

By Waheed Khan
KARACHI, Jan 8 (Reuters) - It's a chilly night in a run-down part of the Pakistani city of Karachi and several boys squat in a dirty alley, getting high on glue.
Breathing in fumes from glue-soaked rags and glue-filled plastic bags is a daily ritual for these boys who live rough on the streets of Pakistan's biggest city.
"The fumes burn the eyes and leave the body dry. It kills your appetite. But after being kicked and treated like a dog it gives you peace," said one of the boys, Mohammad Naeem.
Cheap at 50 rupees (85 cents) a tin and easier to get than illegal drugs, "Samad Bond" glue -- the sniffers' favourite brand -- is flooding the streets of Karachi.
The Pakistan Medical Association says substance abuse among street children has reached alarming levels.
"If more is not done soon, Pakistan is heading for a street children hooked on glue crisis on the scale of other countries like Morocco and Brazil," said Qaiser Sajjad, the association's general-secretary.
There are about 14,000 street children in Karachi and most are sniffing glue, said Aksa Zainab, a social worker who helps street kids at a drop-in centre operated by the Azad Foundation in cooperation with UNICEF.
"According to our research, 90 percent of these children are involved in glue sniffing or in some other solvent abuse," Zainab added.
The problem is getting worse as more and more poor parents with large families are unable to make ends meet and their children end up in the streets of Pakistani cities and towns.
Severe urban poverty, a rising cost of living and few job opportunities for the poor are causing the growing street children problem in Karachi, explained economist Asad Saeed.
"There is also no law on the compulsory education of children. It's a free-for-all society," Saeed said.
Akram, one of the boys sniffing glue in the alley, explains how he ended up homeless.
The 15-year-old, dressed in a ragged blue shirt and dirty jeans, said he ran away from his stepfather who beat him with iron rods and scorched him with cigarettes.
The boys make money cleaning cars and scavenging for scraps in rubbish.
"I wash cars, collect paper and metal from garbage dumps. I even beg for alms but I'm committing no crime," said Mohammad Khalil, one of few who prefers to sleep on the streets with his friends because of family fights at home.
Abdul Karim, a scruffy-haired boy with bucked teeth, is among a small group of street children who have kicked the glue habit.
Small and cocky, Karim attended a detoxification and rehabilitation programme at the Azad Foundation drop-in centre, which is housed in five small rooms in a narrow lane of a downtown residential area.
Karim is a regular visitor to the centre where children get clean clothes, food, medical aid, counselling and even schooling.
"I used to sniff glue until three months back. I used to feel dizzy and sleep all day. Now I feel better and am also trying to stop smoking cigarettes," said Karim.
One room at the centre has a television set, a major attraction for the kids, another has games and a third has been turned into a classroom with colourful charts and a chalk board.
"The numbers are increasing as they tell their friends of what benefits they get here," said social worker Zainab.

From Reuters' AlertNet website