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How Bad is it to Sniff Sharpies

Published: December 19, 2013
Dear TeenHealthFX,

How Bad is it to Sniff Sharpies?

Signed: How Bad is it to Sniff Sharpies

Dear How Bad is it to Sniff Sharpies,


Sharpies are a brand name line of permanent markers that are known for their ability to write on glossy surfaces. There are no warning labels on Sharpie markers. However, they bear the new AP (Approved Product) certification symbol of The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI). The new AP (Approved Product) Seal identifies art materials that are safe and that are certified in a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems. They are considered non-toxic for "normal uses", meaning writing on posters, soccer balls, and for other creative projects.

However, according to the manufacturer’sSafety Data Sheets (MSDS), various Sharpies contain: n-propanol, n-butanol,diacetone alcohol and cresolThe first of these, n-propanol, is commonly used in cosmetics. The other three, however, are industrial solvents, chemicals that should not be sniffed, eaten, or put on the skin. As solvents, they penetrate the skin and fingernails and can enter the bloodstream.

Many solvent are used in every day ordinary products.  Unfortunately these products are also used for getting high. If the vapors from these products are sniffed directly from the can, bottle or container, it is called "inhaling". If the vapors from these products are sprayed into a bag, empty pop can or container and then breathed in, this is called "bagging". Lastly, the vapors can be sprayed or poured onto a cloth or piece of clothing (say, a sock) and inhaled deeply or put into the mouth, a practice called "huffing". These products are cheap, you can find them in your home or buy them at any local grocery, hardware or variety store, and they are easy to hide.  The 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse revealed that the primary population of inhalant abusers is the 12 to 17 age group, followed by the 18 to 25 year old population. In 2000, 18% of eighth graders admitted having used inhalants (huffing) at least once in their lifetime.

Substances commonly used by inhalant abusers fall into several categories:

·         Volatile solvents, such as those found in felt tip markers, paint thinner, gasoline, nail polish remover, glue and other house hold products

·         Aerosol sprays containing propellants and solvents (spray paint, deodorant, and hair care products.)

·         Gases, most commonly nitrous oxide (laughing gas.)

Inhalants produce an effect that may be similar toalcohol  intoxication. Initial symptoms described by abusers who were "huffing" include:

·         Drowsiness

·         Being light headed

·         Loss of inhibition

·         Dizziness

·         Hallucinations or delusions

·         Apathy           

·         Impaired judgment

Chronic inhalant abuse may result in serious and sometimes irreversible damage to the user's heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, and brain. Brain damage may result in personality changes, diminished cognitive functioning, memory impairment, and slurred speech. So to answer your question, if used for their intended use Sharpies do not present a danger to the people using them. But if a person’s goal is to get high with the use of Sharpie’s it is possible but as with any other type of solvent extremely dangerous.

If you have been getting high using some of the products mentioned above then you really need to stop right away to protect your health. If you are having trouble stopping then you need to get a substance abuse evaluation to see what level of treatment is needed.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a right treatment facility you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network providers.






Signed: TeenHealthFX