Disguises of a deceptive wolf can kindle mere curiosity within the innocence and vulnerability of our youth.

 Centuries of plot summaries have evolved for “The Big Bad Wolf.”  The original French and later European folklore of “Little Red Riding Hood” has survived through considerable influence for variety. Whichever version one is to read, the lesson is the same. It draws the reader a clear image of their safe world but contrasts that safety with the dangers that exist in that world. Disguises of a deceptive wolf can kindle mere curiosity within the innocence and vulnerability of our youth. However, this is not about a tale of fiction spun for children. It’s not about “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!” This huffing can instead become a parent’s worst nightmare, and for their child, a potential road to a euphoric death.

     According to the NYDaily News, on Thursday, March 21, 2013, Aria Doherty, a 14 year old honors student of Porter Ranch, California was found dead in her home after huffing from a can of compressed-air duster. “I’m positive my daughter didn’t realize it had the potential to kill her,” her mother said. A sibling found her sister in bed with her nostrils taped shut and a can of compressed air still clinging to her mouth. She apparently died of cardiac arrest.

     Huffing is a slang term for the deadly practice of sniffing household products to get a quick and accessible high. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that inhaling common household products like glue, aerosols, paint thinner or nail polish can be fatal even the first time.  Experts estimate that there are several hundred deaths each year from inhalant abuse. These chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream and quickly travel to  the brain. Within minutes, the user experiences the  altered state of intoxication, albeit brief.  Many inhalants act primarily as asphyxiant gases competing with oxygen transportation sites on the hemoglobin molecule.  Replacing the oxygen creates a condition of partial suffocation. When cells don’t get enough oxygen, they die -- especially brain cells. Seizures can occur and the central nervous system can be affected. Oxygen deprivation can present respiratory failure leading to a fatal cardiac  arrest.  This is known as “sudden sniffing death.” It can occur the first or the twenty-first time huffing is attempted. As Russian roulette, it’s a potentially lethal game of chance and highly addictive. Inhalants are not detected by standard drug tests. Panel tests taking 3-4 days for results on tissue, urine, and blood would most likely come back negative due to the short life of the inhalant in the system. And, Heber Springs is not shielded from the “Big Bad Wolf.” Not long ago, after searching shelves for a can of aerosol dust remover, I was informed by a Walmart employee the product was kept locked by the front register. This was due to kids having been seen huffing it off the shelf. Statistics are high and devastating even if one child dies.I can only assume the dangers of “huffing” is unknown to many. Parenting is challenging to say the least, but kids need parents to be just that. They don’t need them to be their best friend. Parents need to be tuned in to abnormal signs or symptoms displayed by their child. Only parents have the power to make a difference by educating themselves and to share facts with their children. The web site www.inhalant.org is a good starting point. It’s created by the Alliance for Consumer Education.

     Each generation has faced temptations. The hippie counterculture of the 1960’s rejected traditional values and formed their own culture. It became “the Age of Aquarius.” Eastern mysticism, pharmacology, messianic politics and 19th century romanticism intertwined. LSD, a hallucinogen, infused the exhalations of many embracing that culture, not realizing the strangeness or danger of it. LSD offered a demonic descend into madness before returning to enlightenment. Many never emerged from their mad world. Their demon convinced them they could fly from rooftops. While not drawn to that world, my curiosity on one occasion turned my intelligence into short-term stupidity. I took the term “smoking grass” literally. In the absence of parents, I rolled cut lawn clippings into a small piece of paper. Believe me,  there was nothing euphoric about the drag I took on that lit “grass.” I coughed and sputtered my way to the rain barrel where I soaked my head. Therein was my state of enlightenment!

     Remember, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf. Let suspicions be aroused even if it leaves your child standing alone while others are being chummy with the wolves.  And that’s my opinion . . . . .

(Sharen Jergenson of Heber Springs writes her “And that’s my opinion column... “ for The Sun-Times monthly)