huffing freon effects

Inhalant abuse, or huffing, is the practice of inhaling vapors to experience intoxication.  Huffing is one of many types of high-risk recreational highs that teens or young adults may experiment with.  One of the chemicals used in huffing is the refrigerant called Freon.  Freon, the brand name for fluorinated hydrocarbons, is an odorless gas commonly found in air conditioning units.  Teens may access the Freon directly from the a/c unit, or apply the chemical to a rag or inhale it from a plastic bag (bagging).

In hopes of experiencing a high similar to alcohol’s effects, as they both depress the central nervous system, the refrigerant is deeply inhaled.  They may experience sedating effects, hallucinations, euphoria, and lightheadedness.  With the high lasting only about five minutes, the individual will repeat the process repeatedly to extend the high.

Sadly, huffing Freon effects can be extremely dangerous, including causing fatalities.  But huffing these and other chemicals continues to be a practice among adolescents, with a reported 40,000 teens using inhalants on any given day in the US, according to statistics gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Alliance.

How Teens Access Freon

Teens in search of a new high can be very resourceful.  The huffing Freon trend was discovered by air conditioner repair personnel who saw a succession of clients who complained their a/c was not operating properly.  In each case, the Freon level was depleted, causing the unit to malfunction, but the repairmen were unable to detect leaks.

It turned out that individuals were stealing the gas from the a/c units to use directly or to sell on the street.  Some would even break into homes to steal Freon from an interior appliance.  Freon is cheap and easily accessible to teens, who make up the majority of inhalant abusers.

Huffing Freon Effects and Health Dangers

Over the past few years the dangerous huffing Freon effects become known.  Inhaling the fumes from the a/c unit can cause such serious health risks as:

  • Organ damage
  • Choking
  • Burning of esophagus
  • Burning of lips, mouth, tongue
  • Dizziness
  • High blood pressure
  • Freezing of the lungs
  • Brain damage
  • Bloody stool
  • Pulmonary edema, when fluid builds in lungs
  • Serious respiratory problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Coma
  • Sudden death from cardiac arrest

Inhaling Freon to obtain a high is a dangerous practice among teens and young adults.  Because the Freon is readily available through illicit means, this can provide a cheap high that can be perpetuated by peer pressure, dares, or addictive compulsions.

Huffing Freon Effects Require Emergency Treatment

When someone has inhaled Freon and is experiencing serious symptoms, it is considered a medical emergency.  The person should immediately be moved to obtain fresh air to stop exposure to the gas.  Next, call 911 to get emergency personnel to assist you.  Once the individual is hospitalized, they will receive treatment to address both the external injuries, such as burns, and the various internal injuries.  Treatment may involve:

  • Gastric lavage (stomach pumping)
  • Intubated oxygen treatment
  • Medication for high blood pressure, if applicable
  • Treatment for burned or damaged skin

Teens who have a history of inhalant abuse are in need of addiction treatment.  An outpatient or inpatient treatment program can help the young person make necessary changes in behaviors, to learn impulse control, and receive addiction education.

Treatment for Teens With Addictive Behaviors

When a teen has exhibited repeated inhalant abuse or a pattern of high-risk behaviors in seeking intoxicating results, they can benefit from a teen addiction treatment program.  These impulsive behaviors are a danger to themselves and should be addressed before a serious injury occurs.

Teen addiction treatment is that which is tailored for the teen’s developmental differences, as compared to an adult.  The teen brain is still undergoing changes and development, especially in the executive brain functions where impulse control, decision-making, and risk assessment are controlled.  These programs use unique therapy approaches that resonate best with teens, and include family therapy as a central focus of the treatment program.

Teen addiction treatment can be found in either a teen residential program or an outpatient format.  Typically, the severity of the problem is what dictates which type of rehabilitation program is appropriate.  Treatment involves psychotherapy in both individual sessions and group therapy sessions, family therapy groups, addiction education, guest speakers, and medication if warranted.

The Treatment Specialist Locates Addiction Treatment for Teens

The Treatment Specialist is a team of behavioral health professionals with over a decade of experience in the addiction and mental health fields.  When your teen is in need of treatment for addictive behaviors including huffing, contact The Treatment Specialist for free guidance.  The specialists will provide a free locator service that aligns with your teen’s treatment needs and unique circumstances, finding the best treatment match.  For more information about the free services offered by The Treatment Specialist, contact us today at (866) 644-7911.

About the Author

Marissa Katrin Maldonado

Marissa Katrin Maldonado has been working in the field of addiction and behavioral health since 2006. She has been dedicated to helping individuals and families find treatment for addiction, dual diagnosis, mental health, and eating disorder conditions. Marissa received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University and her Masters Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Management at the University of Redlands, School of Business.

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