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Article Summary

More, Younger Girls Are Huffing Inhalants

An estimated 1.1 million children between ages 12 and 17 use inhalants to get high and a higher percentage of girls than boys are huffing household products and starting younger than their male counterparts. In 2005, almost five percent of girls used inhalants in the past year, while 4.2 percent of boys reported huffing.

When the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration last reported inhalant use in 2002, only 4.1 percent of girls used inhalants, but by 2005 that jumped to nearly five percent. In 2002 approximately 285,000 females began use of inhalants, while 337,000 reportedly used inhalants for the first time in 2005.

The new report, "Patterns and Trends in Inhalant Use by Adolescent Males and Females: 2002-2005," was released at a press conference kicking off the 15th National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week. At the conference, parents of children who died while huffing shared their experience.

Parents Should Take Notice

"We are urging parents to talk to their children about inhalants and take notice when suddenly their children have bad breath, face rash, and stained clothing," SAMHSA's Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, H. Westley Clark said in a news release. "As the parents at today's press conference so poignantly point out, this experimentation could very well end in sudden death, even with first time use."

Other findings from the report include:

Adolescents who first used an inhalant to get high in the past year remained stable from 2002 to 2005, with 591,000 youth initiating use of inhalants in 2002 and 605,000 beginning to use inhalants in 2005.

In 2002, an estimated 306,000 males began use and 268,000 in 2005.

In 2002 approximately 285,000 females began use of inhalants, while 337,000 initiated use in 2005.

Use of nitrous oxides or whippets (such as spray whipped cream) among new users declined from 31.6 percent in 2002 to 21.3 percent in 2005.

Use of aerosol sprays other than spray paint more than doubled from 12.6 percent in 2002 to 25.4 percent in 2005.

The rate of use of nitrous oxide or whippets among recent male beginning users declined from 40.2 percent in 2002 to 26.4 percent in 2005. The rate of use of these products remained stable for new female users.

Use of other aerosol sprays among those who recently started using inhalants increased for both males (10.9 percent in 2002 to 19.3 percent in 2005) and females (14.3 percent in 2002 to 30.2 percent in 2005).

More Girls Than Boys Are Huffing

"When we think about a young person huffing, a vision comes to mind of a young boy hiding in his room, secretly huffing. Or so I thought!" said Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. "However, when it comes to huffing at the youngest ages, more girls than boys are misusing common household products to get a fast, inexpensive, temporary 'high.' Among new inhalant initiates, girls start huffing at a much earlier age than boys. This means that parents, health care professionals and educators must start talking with pre-teen girls about the dangers of inhalants before it is too late."

"Young people who turn to inhalants may be completely unaware of the serious health risks," said Timothy P. Condon, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. "We know that inhalant abuse can start early, with research suggesting that even preadolescent children seek out inhalants because they are easy to obtain. Our Monitoring the Future Study shows that eighth graders have abused inhalants at a higher rate than tenth or twelfth graders every year from 1991 to 2006.

Likely to Become Dependent

"NIDA research also indicates that those who first begin using inhalants at an early age are more likely to become dependent on them -- and that long-term inhalant abusers are among the most difficult drug abuse patients to treat. By annually highlighting research-based information on inhalants, NIPAW plays a key role in preventing this outcome."

"The intentional misuse of commercial inhalants, like butane and toluene, can lead to death, addiction and other very serious health problems," said Dr. Bertha Madras, Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Store-owners, educators, medical professionals, parents, and especially young people enrolled in middle school and high school need to be aware of the dangers of misusing inhalants.

The Dangers of Huffing

"Due to the fact that inhalants are generally legal, cheap, and available, young people are more at risk for inhalant misuse, and the dangers associated with that misuse, including brain damage, organ failure, cardiac arrest, convulsions, deafness, impaired vision, impaired motor skills, and loss of judgment. Even first time use of inhalants can lead to death. Now is the time to raise awareness of this national drug problem, and work to prevent our youth from the cycle of inhalant addiction."

Inhalants are common household products such as shoe polish, glue, aerosol air fresheners, hair sprays, nail polish, paint solvents, degreasers, gasoline or lighter fluids.

The 15th National Inhalants and Poisons Week is March 18-25. National Inhalants Prevention Coalition information is available at Inhalants.org.

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