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"Rugby Boys"

Posted Nov 21 2008 4:47pm
Artwork by Antonio Totto, Jr.


“Rugby Boys” are often seen in the streets of Metro Manila. Nope, they are not healthy kids playing the ball sports, but rather they are street children snorting “Rugby” a brand of contact cement or glue and other aromatic solvents to moderate hunger pangs.

A UNICEF report estimates the number of street children in the Philippines to range from 75,000 to 80,000. On the other hand, data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development show that the number of street children increases by 6,365 yearly. And half of the country’s street children, from 8 to 20 years old, have at one time or another sniffed Rugby and other inhalants. The relative ease of procuring these substances due to their low costs contributed significantly to widespread abuse. There is no comprehensive epidemiologic data on the magnitude on inhalant abuse among children and adolescents in the Philippines.

The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165) does not include solvents in the list of dangerous drugs and substances.

“Rugby Boys” are also called “Solvent Boys”. And of course, even girls do the sniffing in the streets. The chemical is placed in a plastic bag and these kids inhale the vapor directly form the bag to achieve a state of euphoria.

The chemical toluene gives the aromatic smell in contact cement and other glue and the culprit behind the addiction. Toluene abusers are exposed to levels above 1000 ppm (parts per million). Levels of exposure greater than 600 ppm cause confusion and delirium.

Inhalant abuse causes permanent damage to the brain and may result in “sudden sniffing death”. It can also cause loss of memory, confusion or disorientation, distorted perception of time and distance, hallucination, illusion, nausea and vomiting. Inhalant abuse leads to muscle cramps and weakness, numbness of limbs, abdominal pains, damage to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver. It also produces psychological dependence. Once the habit is formed, the dose has to be increased gradually to produce the same effect.

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