Boy, 13, addicted to inhaling petrol for survival

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Born into a noble family in a Zongo community in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, Fatawu has been inhaling petrol since age five, according to close relations and residents in the community.

Medically called inhalant abuse, the condition sees the 13-year-old inhale petrol by taking it along with him where ever he goes. Attempts to take his bottle from him result in tussles.

Some residents are therefore calling for him to be taken for rehabilitation and further medical assessments.

According to residents who usually assist in different ways whenever he is roaming in the Bolgatanga township, it all started when he was exposed to petrol and other fuel products by his father who is a motor bike mechanic at Sabon Zongo in Bolgatanga.

Fatawu therefore grew up with the condition of inhaling the fuel.

One will ask how he gets the petrol. He normally smuggles it out from motor bikes that are parked by riders without their knowledge into a plastic container or a sachet and will inhale it until the fuel finishes in the container.

Among Americans, inhalants were the 2nd most commonly used illicit drugs among 12-17 year olds, behind marijuana. Some people also abuse glue, correction fluid, gasoline, spray paint, shoe polish, thinner among others. Indeed, there are a wide range of substances that people can abuse which are classified as volatile solvents and people sniff them. For instance, common household substances like hair spray, deodorants, room refresher, analgesic spray, and asthma spray, dry cleaning agent, spot remover, degreaser, nail polish remover, lighter and fire extinguisher.

Although most parents are appropriately concerned about illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine & LSD, they often ignore the dangers posed to their children from common household products that contain volatile solvents or aerosols. Many young people inhale the vapors from these sources in search of quick intoxication without being aware of the serious health consequences.

A single session of repeated inhalant abuse can disrupt heart rhythms an d could cause death from cardiac arrest or lower oxygen levels enough to cause asphyxiation. Regular abuse of these substances can result in serious harm to vital organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys & liver. These are excerpts from Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director, NIDA, USA.

According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition in the USA, a total of 240 people were killed as a result of inhalant abuse between the 1996 and 1999.

Several attempts made by our Upper East Regional correspondent, Tanko Mohammed Rabiu, to convince the boy’s father for a news documentary on the boy for medical attention proved futile.

The most important thing is for the boy to get medical attention and become a better person in life. Due to the inhalant abuse, the boy is mentally retarded though have some little sense of communication with people. The boy is left to move about in Bolgatanga, begging people for petrol and at times food and water though according to people the parents give him food before leaving home.

TV3’s Rabiu Tanko Mohammed witnessed several times at night when the parents and his senior brothers go round in town looking for him to go home.

According to some of the psychiatric doctors our correspondent spoke to, the boy needs to be assessed and given proper medical attention otherwise his condition will worsen in the coming years if nothing is done now.

One of the Doctors said: “It’s serious in the advanced countries because of the availability model but we can’t rule it out in countries like ours since such cases go unreported or some may not consider it as a condition which needs intervention. Secondly, we have poor monitoring systems”.

For that matter calling for a proper monitoring system and model in mental health in general to reduce some of this situations.

It is the hope of residents in the Bolgatanga municipality in the Upper East Region of Ghana to see this poor innocent boy given medical attention so that he can integrate back into the society as a normal person as well as enrolling in school.

By Rabiu Tanko Mohammed|3news.com|Ghana

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