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Early Inhalant Use Signals Future Problems

Marker for Future Drug Use, Delinquency

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Updated August 26, 2012

Inhalant use by 12 and 13 year olds is a marker for future drug use and delinquent behavior, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The data in the report are extracted from the 2002 and 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Youths ages 12 or 13 who used inhalants were six times as likely to have stolen or tried to steal items worth more than $50.

The data show that 35 percent of persons ages 18-49 who initiated inhalant use at age 13 or younger were classified with dependence on or abuse of alcohol or an illicit drug in the past year. This contrasts with 10.1 percent of persons who had never used inhalants.

The report, Inhalant Use and Delinquent Behaviors among Young Adolescents, using averaged 2002 and 2003 data, shows 8.6 percent of youths ages 12 or 13 had used inhalants in their lifetime. The most popular product category for inhaling was glue, shoe polish or toluene. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points to a recent study finding that toluene produces euphoria through the same mechanism that promotes euphoria in drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine or PCP.

"The survey data show that youths ages 12 or 13 were more likely to use inhalants than marijuana in the past year," SAMHSA Administrator Charles Curie noted. "Parents need to be aware of the immediate, potential danger to their children from the misuse of common everyday household products. Our Strategic Prevention Framework grants are helping states and our Drug Free Community grants are helping communities support the services families need to prevent substance abuse."

Harvey Weiss, National Inhalant Prevention Coalition executive director, noted that "there has been a lot of recent research that shows we need to be concerned about inhalants, not just because of their toxicity and ability to cause sudden sniffing death, but because we now have clear evidence that early use of inhalants sets the very young up for major problems in later life."

Potentially Deadly Behavior

John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said: "While overall drug use among young people has declined substantially over the past three years, we must not lose our focus. Inhalant abuse remains a dangerous and potentially deadly behavior that parents need to be aware of. We encourage all parents to learn the signs of inhalant abuse and to monitor their teens."

A new study on inhalants by the Partnership for Drug Free America, emphasizes that parents do not know their children are inhaling and are not talking to their children about inhalants. The research shows that parents significantly underestimate the vulnerability of their children to inhalant use – only four percent of parents of sixth to eighth graders believe their child has tried inhalants while 22 percent of sixth to eight graders report having tried them.

Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of NIDA, warns that "even in an otherwise healthy person, a single session of abusing concentrated amounts of certain inhalants can lower oxygen levels enough to cause asphyxiation or disrupt heart rhythms and cause death from cardiac arrest."

Becoming Dependent on Inhalants

Recent NIDA-funded research shows that about 60 percent of the adolescents who reported using inhalants during the past year also reported the use of more than one type of inhalant. In addition, those who first began using inhalants at an early age were more likely to become dependent on them.[p[] The NIDA-funded Monitoring the Future Study of drug use among 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders found that lifetime use of inhalants increased significantly among 8th-graders, from 15.8 percent in 2003 to 17.3 percent in 2004, continuing an upward trend in use noted among 8th-graders in 2003, after several years of decline. Since 2001, there appears to be a gradual decline among 8th-graders in the perceived risk of using inhalants.

"Active, involved parents are one of the absolute keys to inhalant prevention," said Stephen Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "One could argue that with parents or caring adults prevention succeeds, and without them it fails."

The thirteenth annual National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week is March 20 through 26.

More Information

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Alcoholism
  4. Drug Abuse 101
  5. Commonly Abused Drugs
  6. Inhalant Abuse
  7. Early Inhalant Use Signals Future Problems

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