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Inhalant Abuse

The Inhalant Abuse Prevention program, guided by a panel of distinguished experts, is designed to provide parents and other caregivers with essential information about the risks and prevention of inhalant abuse to equip them to have the discussions with their children.

What is Inhalant Abuse?

Inhalant abuse refers to the deliberate sniffing of common products found in homes and communities with the purpose of “getting high.” According to the American Association of Pediatrics, nearly 20% of all eighth graders have experimented with some form of inhalant - that's one child in every five. Yet, ACE research indicated that less than half of the parents surveyed felt they knew enough about inhalants to even discuss the issue with their children. We have made it our goal to use educational research and create outreach materials designed to raise awareness, educate appropriate audiences, and prevent the epidemic of inhalant abuse among children.

Inhalants are easily accessible, legal, everyday products. When used as intended, these products have a useful purpose in our lives and enhance the quality of life. When intentionally misused, they can be deadly. Inhalant abuse is a lesser-recognized form of substance abuse, but it is no less dangerous. Inhalants are addictive and are considered to be “gateway” drugs because children often progress from inhalants to illegal drug and alcohol abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that one in five American teens have used inhalants to get high.

How Can Products Be Abused?

Inhalant abuse is referred to as huffing, sniffing, dusting, or bagging and generally occurs through the nose or mouth. Huffing is when a chemically soaked rag is held to the face or stuffed in the mouth and the substance is inhaled. Sniffing can be done directly from containers, plastic bags, clothing, or rags saturated with a substance or from the product directly. With bagging, substances are sprayed or deposited into a plastic or paper bag and the vapors are inhaled. This method can result in suffocation because a bag is placed over the individual’s head, cutting off the supply of oxygen.

Other methods used include placing inhalants on sleeves, collars, or other items of clothing that are sniffed over a period of time. Fumes are discharged into soda cans or balloons are filled with nitrous oxide and the vapors are inhaled. Heating volatile substances and inhaling the vapors emitted is another form of inhalant abuse. All of these methods are potentially harmful or deadly. Experts estimate that there are several hundred deaths each year from inhalant abuse, although under-reporting is still a problem.

What Products Can Be Abused?

There are more than a 1,400 products that are potentially dangerous when inhaled, such as typewriter correction fluid, air conditioning coolant, gasoline, propane, felt tip markers, spray paint, air freshener, butane, cooking spray, paint, and glue. Most are common products that can be found in the home, garage, office, school, or as close as the local convenience store. The best advice for consumers is to read the labels before using a product to ensure the proper method is observed. It is also recommended that parents discuss the product labels with their children at age-appropriate times.

Learn more about the dangers of abuse or the specific types of inhalants aerosols, liquids, and gases.

Click here for the frequently asked questions about inhalants.

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