What is chroming? What is the new drug trend sweeping TikTok and taking young lives?

What is ‘chroming’? The new drug trend sweeping social media that has caused several deaths.

A teenage girl from Melbourne, Australia, has died after taking part in ‘chroming’ – a new drug trend spotted on social media and spreading among teens.

Esra Haynes, 13, died in April after taking part in the dangerous practice, leading to her family embarking on an awareness campaign to prevent the tragedy from happening again.

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Esra’s sister, Imogen, told Australia’s 7News: “We definitely have a mission to raise awareness for kids and anyone that does it. We don’t want that to happen to anyone else. We don’t want another family to go through this, it’s absolutely horrible.”

Nitrous oxideNitrous oxide
Nitrous oxide

So what is ‘chroming’?

It sounds like it’s new – but only the name is. Chroming was originally named after the inhalation of chrome-based paint to get high, but the term has broadened to include the recreational inhalation of any toxic substance.

Huffing toxic chemicals – from sources such as aerosol cans, paint, solvent, permanent markers, nail polish remover, hairspray, deodorants, lighter fluid, glue, cleaning products, nitrous oxide or petrol – has been around for decades. But there are concerns the practice has become more prevalent due to its rebranding as ‘chroming’ and its status as a new cultural phenomenon among teenagers.

These inhalants result in a short-term “high”, slowing down brain activity in the central nervous system.

Glues, gases, solvents, and aerosols contain volatile substances which are depressants, slowing down the brain and central nervous system and producing a similar effect to being drunk. Common effects can also include mood swings, aggressive behaviour, hallucinations, vomiting and blackouts.

Some inhalants, such as butane, can cause effects which last up to 30 minutes.

However, abusing inhalants can be fatal if the user doesn’t get enough oxygen, which is known as hypoxia.

So who is involved in chroming?

In the US, the healthcare provider American Addiction Centers has said chroming is more prevalent among younger people without access to other more traditional drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.

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The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the majority of people using inhalants in this way were between the ages of 12 and 17. According to the drug advisory service Frank, there are more than 50 deaths a year involving glues, gases, solvents and aerosols.

Are there other similar chemicals being used?

Sniffing nitrous oxide – otherwise known as ‘laughing gas’ or ‘hippy crack’ – is very similar, and the distinctive silver bottles have been spotted littering Scotland’s parks and streets for a few years now.

The UK Government is planning a long-expected ban on the sale or possession of nitrous oxide as part of a wider crackdown on antisocial behaviour.

The plan is being pushed by home secretary Suella Braverman and would lead to people found with laughing gas, which is usually inhaled from balloons filled through small metal cylinders, facing prosecution.

Previously, the Independent Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said a total ban on the gas should not be implemented as it would be “disproportionate with the level of harm associated with nitrous oxide”. It said such control could create “significant burdens” for legitimate uses of the substance.