What Is 'Chroming'? Parents Are Pleading for Greater Awareness About This Fatal Trend

We all grew up with the whole “Say no to drugs” campaign, right? We’ve seen the ads about what being high looks like and how hard drugs can lead to a horrible life and even death. At the time, it was a no-brainer for many individuals to “say no,” but what happens when you find other ways to get high that aren’t illegal and can be done with household supplies? Sure, kids should continue saying “no” to getting high, but when something isn’t locked up and is a common household product, it might not seem as dangerous. That’s where chroming comes in, where inhaling common household products can lead to a high but also death.

Even though these aren’t drugs that you need to buy off the street or inject into your veins, the chroming trend is still incredibly dangerous and something parents should be talking to their kids about. As the New York Post reported on May 22, Esra Haynes was a 13-year-old Australian girl who died from inhaling chemicals from a deodorant can in March. And her parents want to make the fatal effects of chroming known to every parent. Here’s what chroming is, what it does to the human brain and why it can be fatal.

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What is chroming?

“Chroming” is basically "huffing"—acting as a newer term for something that’s been a dangerous trend for a while. As Australian outlet ABC News reported in 2019, chroming is when young kids inhale “volatile substances” found in aerosol cans to get high. The chemicals used in this manner are called inhalants.

As the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) has noted, inhalants aren’t illegal. They’re “common household, industrial and medical products that produce vapors, which some people inhale… to make them feel intoxicated or high.”

What is the chroming trend?

There has been an uptick of chroming in Australia according to ABC News and the chroming trend, unfortunately, hasn’t gone anywhere since it popped up in 2017 or so. As the New York Post reported, the chroming trend is when you inhale toxic substances found in the household in place of recreational drug use.

As stated before, “huffing” has been around for a while, and essentially is the same as chroming. Huffing or whippits are common ways to get extremely high, however, it is also immensely dangerous since these aren’t meant to be used as drugs or inhaled into the human body.

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What does chroming do to you and your brain?

These toxic chemicals used to clean your house or used on your car, when inhaled into the body, “act as depressants, or relaxants” with how they slow down human brains. Hallucinations, dizziness, loss of body control and more usually occur along with a euphoric feeling or high.

There are reasons why you’re supposed to open windows when using chemicals to clean with or why you’re supposed to wear protective masks when working with chemicals on cars or while painting with spray paint. Without getting too sciencey, the chemicals go into the air and, if inhaled, they are “absorbed from the blood” and make their way into our brains.

Immediate death can happen if butane or propane are used, since they cut off direct oxygen to your brain. But even if other products are used, Dr. Jeremy Hayllar, the Clinical Director of Brisbane's Biala Community Health Service, told Australian outlet ABC News that chroming damages the brain in horrific ways—almost like you’re melting it.

"Imagine something made of plastic; now let's say you heat it up and it kind of loses its shape and form. We could make the same analogy with the effects of solvent on the brain," he said. "It's not heat that's doing it, but it's being dissolved by soluble substances that get into fatty tissue and disrupt them.”

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What are the signs of a chroming overdose?

As the ADF reported, any amount of chroming or inhaling chemicals can result in “acute intoxication,” overdosing or death. If you suspect someone has been chroming and has the following symptoms, they most likely are experiencing a chroming overdose:

  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

  • irregular heartbeat

  • chest pain

  • hallucinations

  • blackout, seizures and coma

Call 911 immediately and take them to a hospital if this is the case.

What is chroming addiction?

As with many kinds of drug use, chroming can become addictive. With how much it impacts your brain and alters its chemistry, along with the high that follows, your brain will become dependent on that feeling, causing you to want to do it—and feeling like you have to do it—more.

Symptoms of chroming addiction can include (but are not limited to):

  • Needing to sniff or huff chemicals to get through the day

  • Feeling dizzy or sick if you don’t do it

  • You’re agitated or depressed without chroming

  • You shake if you haven’t done it that day

  • Upset stomach or nausea

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Have people died from chroming?

As reported above, Haynes went to a sleepover at the end of March and her mother, Andrea, said the hangout was “just the regular routine." They didn’t think anything unusual or unsafe would happen because they knew her whereabouts and who she was hanging out with.

As Dr. Hayllar said, teens hospitalized because of chroming have fainted, convulsed and vomited until medics showed up. “All volatile substances are taken up very quickly in the brain and change the way that messages are sent around the brain," he said.

The New York Post reported that chroming has killed several Australian teens in recent years. So much so that certain stores in Australia are locking up their cans of deodorant and other products that could be used as inhalants. And of course, just like huffing is universal, chroming is not just an Australian problem.

Haynes’s parents want deodorant formulas changed so that it’s less toxic and they want to spread awareness of this trend. They also suggest parents talk to their children about the fatal effects of chroming, because “kids don’t look beyond the next day… especially not knowing how it can affect them.”

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