Why Parents Need To Understand Chroming And The Danger To Young Lives

A Wake-up Call for Parents: Understanding the Irreversible Impact on Young Lives

Esra Haynes was a thirteen-year-old girl who recently lost her life to chroming—a drug craze that, according to recent studies, is increasing in popularity among young Australians.

Esra was at a friend’s sleepover when she went into cardiac arrest and suffered irreparable brain damage after inhaling the contents of an aerosol deodorant can. Her parents turned off her life support eight days after the incident. Her distraught parents are speaking publicly to help raise awareness and to warn other parents about the dangers of chroming.

While chroming is not new, its recent resurgence amongst young children and teenagers has sparked alarm amongst health officials, with studies showing that teenagers often experiment with chroming before going on to try other drugs, such as alcohol. Chroming is popular among teenagers as it can give them a ‘high’ without needing to use harder drugs and is easy and affordable to source.

Health professionals warn that inhalation of solvents and household chemicals for recreational purposes poses severe risks to the well-being of teenagers and young children, including irreversible damage to brain development. As parents, we must be aware of these dangers and take necessary steps to protect our children from this growing threat.

Understanding Chroming and Its Effects: Chroming, or volatile substance use (VSU), involves inhaling solvents or other household chemicals to achieve a high. These substances act as depressants, affecting the central nervous system and causing euphoria. However, their immediate and long-term consequences can be devastating. Inhalants quickly enter the brain, disrupting normal messaging processes and leading to loss of consciousness, impaired cognition, and sensory abnormalities.

The Impact on Young Children: Disturbingly, even very young children have been observed under the influence of inhalants in various cities. Adolescence, a time of significant changes and vulnerability, amplifies the risks associated with chroming. Inhalants affect vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow and can severely impact young, developing brains. Children may experience loss of coordination, impaired thinking capacity, and cognitive deficiencies, hindering their overall well-being.

Recognising the Signs and Immediate Dangers: It is crucial for parents to familiarise themselves with the signs of VSU. Symptoms may include sudden changes in behaviour, coordination difficulties, impaired memory, and a chemical smell on their clothing or breath. The immediate dangers of chroming cannot be underestimated. Sudden death can occur due to oxygen deprivation or arrhythmias caused by the substances. It is essential to seek help immediately if you believe your child is experimenting with VSU to ensure their health and safety.

The Link Between Chroming and Mental Health: VSU often exacerbates underlying mental health conditions or serves as a means to cope with difficult emotions. However, this only worsens the symptoms or underlying condition the user sought to relieve. Inhalants can intensify depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, leading to a vicious cycle of addiction and psychological distress. Studies have shown a correlation between chroming and a higher risk of developing mental disorders like schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.

Prevention and Intervention: Parents play a vital role in preventing and addressing VSU among children. Education and open communication are essential. We should engage in honest discussions about the dangers of inhalants, emphasising the irreversible harm they can cause to the body and brain. Encouraging positive coping mechanisms and supporting underlying mental health issues can help prevent the allure of substance abuse.

Community Awareness and Support: Addressing the issue of chroming requires a collective effort from communities, schools, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement agencies. Community awareness campaigns, like those conducted by the Queensland Police Service, are crucial in educating the public and encouraging early intervention. Helplines and support organisations, such as Lifeline, Headspace, and Beyond Blue, offer guidance and assistance to those in need.

For more information:

Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne