Dangerous craze killing young Australians
The death of an Australian teenager has exposed a dangerous new drug craze that is growing in popularity and threatening the lives of young people across Australia.
Esra Haynes became the tragic face of “chroming,” a form of substance abuse involving inhaling toxic chemicals to get high, following her accidental death earlier this year.
A Victorian high school student went into cardiac arrest and sustained extensive permanent brain damage after inhaling chemicals from a deodorant can during a sleepover at a friend’s house in March.
Eight days later, her parents turned off her life support system. She was 13 years old.
Experts now say Esra’s death was caused by a dangerous new craze for chrome plating, which research has shown has an “upward” trend.
Chrome plating, also known as puffing or sniffing, is a form of volatile substance use (VSU) that involves inhaling toxic chemicals such as aerosol cans, paint, or gasoline for a quick high.
This method is especially popular with teenagers who, for many reasons, want to achieve that kind of high without resorting to hard drugs.
But chrome plating can be extremely dangerous and can cause serious short-term physical or cognitive harm, even “sudden death,” according to LaTrobe University associate professor Sarah McLean.
“The problem with volatiles is that they have different effects because they have different chemical properties. But we know that in addition to intoxication, they can cause serious damage, ”said Dr. McLean.
“Regular users show significant neurological and cognitive impairment, including impairments in learning, memory, and verbal intelligence, as well as organ and bone marrow damage.
“They have the ability for sudden death, but it is not known who will die, when or how if misused.”
Recent paper The UNSW National Research Center on Drugs and Alcohol reported that between 2000 and 2021, there were 164 documented deaths related to inhalant abuse in Australia, as identified through the National Coronary Information System.
Adolescents were the second largest age group to die from inhalant abuse, accounting for 28 percent of cases.
But the problem, according to Dr. McLean, is that little is known about the prevalence of chrome plating, and its impact may be just the tip of the iceberg.
“We can’t know how many misses there were [with chroming]She said.
“It’s hard to say exactly how many people have died after chromium plating because many people who use chromium don’t show up as well in national polls.”
However, she says it is known that inhalant use is on the rise and that a “higher proportion” of use is in younger schoolchildren than in older teenagers.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019 National Drug Control Strategy Household Survey found inhalation consumption increased from 1.0 percent in 2016 to 1.7 percent in 2019, with nitrous oxide (known as laughing gas) and nitrates being the most common substances used by over 60 percent of people aged 14 and over (like poppers).
Other inhalants were used much less frequently, with gasoline inhaled by less than six percent of the group, aerosols by just over four percent, and “other volatile solvents” by just over five percent.
meanwhile, 2017 Australian High School Students’ Alcohol and Drugs Survey Among 20,000 students aged 12 to 17, 18 percent have intentionally inhaled inhalants at least once in their lives.
Of these, 43 percent chromed once or twice, and 19 percent did so 10 or more times in one year.
A similar survey was conducted in 2022, but the results have yet to be released.
Dr. McLean said that the rise of chromium plating was “a matter of fashion” and that what was once a substance abuse problem relegated to the fringes of society has become much more popular.
“[VSU] used to be associated with social marginality, and we would see a lot of young people who were involved in the child protection system, or who chrome the homeless – we still see,” she said.
“But there is evidence that some people who are bogged down in [VSU] are within the mainstream.
Esra Haynes’s parents blamed social media for what she learned about chrome plating and called for tighter restrictions to prevent children from accessing this kind of “adult” content.
In 2021 The newspaper “New York Times reported that “nitrous-related content” is “thriving” on the internet, and news.com.au saw several TikTok videos from younger users talking about their chrome-plating habits.
According to Foundation for alcohol and drugs young people reported sniffing inhalants because they were easy to get, or to cope with trauma, pain and stress, or to combat boredom.
But authorities are trying to quell the growing craze by raising awareness of dangerous practices and making it harder to access chrome plating materials – both with educational programs and literally locking products behind glass doors.
But Dr. McLean says the most effective way for deodorant and aerosol companies is to “reformulate their products so they can’t be smelled,” similar to how White Out was reformulated and aerosol paints were made less volatile.
“Reformulating a product is the key to switching people to less harmful substances,” she said, noting the importance of education, care, and redirecting urges to use substances.
“Of course, always part of the response to drug use is to help young people and provide alternative activities for young people that are enjoyable.
“As with any type of drug use, it needs to be dealt with in several ways at once.”
For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, call the National Alcohol and Other Drugs Helpline on 1800 250 015. If someone needs urgent medical attention, call triple 0.
Originally published as Chrome plating: What is the danger of drug addiction that threatens the lives of young people