Inhalants everywhere but often unnoticed
April 03, 2006 - Bangor
By Megan Rice
Huffing, bagging, sniffing,
dusting - have you heard kids use these terms and
wondered what they were talking about? These are
some of the terms for inhalant use - a cheap,
legal and accessible way to get high. Inhalants
are breathable chemical vapors that are
intentionally inhaled or sniffed for mood-altering
The Maine Association of Prevention Programs
(MAPP) wants to ensure that parents, teachers,
retailers and medical providers recognize inhalant
abuse as an often overlooked form of substance
abuse which can cause serious health consequences.
With the rise of inhalant abuse among our youth,
it is the responsibility of adults to let young
people know the severe danger of inhaling these
According to the 2004 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol
Use Survey, more than one out of every 10 Maine
students in grades six through 12 has tried
inhalants. Inhalants are referred to as a "gateway
drug" because they are often the first drugs that
younger children use. Parents should educate
themselves on the harm of these substances and
talk early and often to their children about the
risks of handling these poisons and toxic
products, as one time use can cause brain damage
or even death.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free
America, more than 1,000 common household products
qualify as inhalants. Most can be found under the
kitchen sink or on a shelf in the garage. These
products are generally available, low in cost and
are legal to possess. Among the list of usual
suspects that comprise this potentially deadly
"aerosol arsenal" are a variety of products,
including, hair spray, gases, paint products,
cleaning agents, computer agents, deodorizers and
other seemingly benign household mainstays like
glues, markers, nail polish remover, Freon,
lighter fluid, correction fluid, gasoline and fire
The Maine Inhalant Abuse Prevention Task Force has
found that inhalant abuse, like other risky
behaviors, goes through cycles when use is more
common. National data suggests that this behavior
is again on the rise. More children are using
inhalants than adults think - and at earlier ages.
Use may start as early as the third grade and
generally increases through middle school.
Nationally, one out of four eighth-graders has
intentionally inhaled poisonous products. In
Maine, according to the 2004 Maine Youth Drug and
Alcohol Use Survey results, 11.5 percent of
seventh-graders reported lifetime use of
inhalants, and more than 15 percent of
eighth-graders reported lifetime use.
Parents who suspect their children are using
should be on the alert for changes in their
child's attitudes and interests, decline in school
performance, disoriented or dazed appearance,
slurred speech and chemical odors on their child's
clothes, breath or backpack. In addition, adults
should look for red spots or sores around the nose
and-or mouth, complaints of headaches, empty
lighters, spray cans or household containers, rags
or plastic bags with chemical odors.
If you are suspicious about a child's behavior or
appearance, be sure to follow up. Don't dismiss
your gut feeling telling you that something is not
right. Remember, one of the attractions of
inhalants is that adults are not suspicious of it
and don't recognize the signs of use. The
inhalation of vapors, fumes and gases from common,
legal products, such as household, school and
office products to get "high" is illegal in Maine.
It is also illegal to possess inhalants with the
intent to inhale their vapors, fumes or gases.
(Maine Title 22, Statute 2383-C:4)
To help avert any potentially tragic situations
linked to inhalant abuse, MAPP is urging parents
to talk to their children now about the dangers of
inhalants and other drugs. Please make sure youth
are getting the message that inhalants are poisons
and are dangerous like all other poisons - that
even trying inhalants once can kill.
For more information on inhalant abuse, contact
the Maine Office of Substance Abuse by phone,
1-800-499-0027 or by e-mail: email@example.com.
Or to learn more about the dangers of inhalants,
search these Web sites: http://maineosa.org/irc,
www.inhalants.druabuse.gov, or www.inhalants.org.
Megan Rice is coordinator of the Maine
Association of Prevention Programs.