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Statistics

How Prevalent is Inhalant Abuse in the United States?

  • Over 2.6 million children aged 12 – 17 use an inhalant each year to get high.
  • 1 in 4 students in America has intentionally abused a common household product to get high by the time they reach the eighth grade.
  • Inhalants tend to be the drug that is tried first by children.
  • “Sniffing” and “huffing” can begin at age 10 or younger.
  • 59% of children are aware of friends huffing at age 12.
  • Inhalants are the fourth most-abused substance after alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana.
  • The number of lives claimed by inhalant abuse each year is unknown because these deaths often are attributed to other causes.

The following information is taken from studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Centers for Disease Control.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

An estimated 24.6 million individuals aged 12 or older were current illicit drug users in 2013. For substance Use and Mental Health Estimates from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health-Overview of Findings, click here.

A little over 2% of 24.6 million individuals aged 12 or older were current users of inhalants in 2013. That means 496,000 individuals aged 12 or older were current users, and those are just the reported numbers. 121,000 of those individuals were aged 12 to 17 and 375,000 were aged 18 or older. 

For more information on inhalant abuse at SAMSHA, visit their website.

NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Study

Monitoring the Future is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults. Each year, a total of approximately 50,000 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students are surveyed (12th graders since 1975, and 8th and 10th graders since 1991). In addition, annual follow-up questionnaires are mailed to a sample of each graduating class for a number of years after their initial participation. The study has been funded under a series of investigator-initiated competing research grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information on Monitoring the Future, click here.

National surveys indicate that nearly 21.7 million Americans aged 12 and older have used inhalants at least once in their lives. NIDA's Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey reveals that 13.1% of 8th graders have used inhalants. Parents and children need to know that even sporadic or single episodes of inhalant abuse can be extremely dangerous. Inhalants can disrupt heart rhythms and cause death from cardiac arrest, or lower oxygen levels enough to cause suffocation. Regular abuse of these substances can result in serious harm to vital organs, including the brain, heart, kidneys, and liver.

Through scientific research, we have learned much about the nature and extent of inhalant abuse, its pharmacology, and its consequences. This research has brought the picture of inhalant abuse in the nation into focus and pointed to the dangers and the warning signs for parents, educators, and clinicians. We hope this compilation of the latest scientific information will help alert readers to inhalant abuse and its harmful effects and aid efforts to deal with this problem effectively.

Below is an excerpt from the Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Inhalants for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders; 2014 (in percent).

Time Period 8th Grade 10th Grade 12th Grade
Lifetime 10.80% 8.70% 6.50%
Past Year 5.30% 3.30% 1.90%
Past Month 2.20% 1.10% 0.70%

For more information on the Monitoring the Future Study and the National Institute for Drug Abuse, click here.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

The 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) reported the following findings about Inhalant Abuse. For more information on the CDC and inhalant abuse, click here.

The survey notes:

  • 11.7% of students have used an inhalant to get high at least once in their lifetime (Table 44)
  • Females (12.9%) used inhalants more often than males (10.6%)
  • 9th grade female use (16.7%) was significantly higher than 9th grade male use (9.7%)
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among Hispanic (14.0%) than white (11.5%) and black (8.2%) students
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among Hispanic female (15.3%) than black female (9.4%) students
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among white male (10.4%) and Hispanic male (12.8%) than black male (7.1%) students.
  • Overall, the prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among 9th grade (13.0%), 10th grade (12.5%), and 11th grade (11.5%) than 12th-grade (9.1%) students
  • Overall, prevalence of having ever used inhalants was higher among 9th-grade female (16.7%) than 10th-grade female (13.1%), 11th-grade female (11.5%), and 12th grade female (9.3%) students
  • Prevalence of having ever used inhalants ranged from 8.7% to 16.8% across state surveys (median: 11.6%) and from 6.0% to 18.9% across local surveys (median: 9.9%) (Table 45)
  • The percentage of students who ever used inhalants decreased during 1995–2003 (20.3%–12.1%) and did not change significantly during 2003–2009 (12.1%–11.7%)
  • The percentage of students who ever used inhalants also decreased during 2007–2009 (13.3%–11.7%)

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