Generation of Teens Abusing Inhalants
April 24, 2006
Inhalant Abuse: New Generation of Teens
Engaging in Dangerous Behavior; Declining Perception of Risk
is Major Warning Sign
New York, NY – The Partnership for a Drug-Free America®
reports that an alarming number of teenagers are "sniffing"
or "huffing" a variety of household products such as spray
paint, glue, computer duster, cooking spray and correction
fluid to get high.
The 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) surveyed
more than 7,200 teenagers and 1,200 parents (margin of
error: +/- 1.5 percent). Top-line findings on inhalants from
this year's nationally projectable tracking study¹ show:
five teenagers (20 percent), or 4.7 million teenagers
nationally, report abusing inhalants in their lifetime.
of teenagers in 2005 agree strongly that inhalants can
kill you, down 19 percent from 2001.
of teenagers in 2005 agree strongly that inhalants can
cause brain damage, down nine percent from 2001.
"What stands out is the teens' decreasing perception of risk
because that often correlates with increases in use," said
Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of the Partnership. "We
clearly need to address underlying attitudes and help teens
understand the dangers associated with this form of
Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of vapors to get high
can directly induce heart failure and death within minutes
of a session of repeated inhalations.
This syndrome, known as "sudden sniffing death," can result
from a single session of inhalant use by an otherwise
healthy young person. "Sudden sniffing death" is
particularly associated with the abuse of butane, propane,
gasoline, and gases and vapors found in common household
The substances found in household products can produce a
variety of additional effects during or shortly after use.
These effects are related to inhalant intoxication and may
include belligerence, apathy, impaired judgment, and
impaired functioning in work or social situations.
Dizziness, drowsiness, slurred speech, lethargy, depressed
reflexes, general muscle weakness, and stupor are other
The 2005 PATS survey of parents³ also contains statistics
that are cause for concern:
percent of parents believe their child has ever abused
inhalants. Parents are not aware or are in denial about
the prevalence of inhalant abuse among teens. Teens are
four times more likely to report inhalant abuse than
fewer parents believe their teens see great risk in
abusing inhalants (70 percent in 2005 versus 84 percent in
2003). Parents are not discussing the risk of inhalant
abuse with their teens as frequently as they discuss other
substances, like cigarettes, alcohol, or marijuana. While
75 percent report discussing the risks of cigarettes "a
lot" with their teen, only 50 percent report spending the
same amount of time discussing the risks of inhalant abuse
"a lot" with their teen.
The Partnership and the Alliance for Consumer Education
(ACE) have launched a multi-faceted communications campaign
aimed at reducing inhalant abuse among teens.
"With the increased incidence of our children experimenting
with inhalants to the tune of one-in-five abusing a product,
we must take a proactive approach to reducing this threat,"
says Joseph Healy, President of ACE. "Parents need to know
and talk to their children about the dangerous consequences
associated with this risky behavior. Concern over these
findings brought ACE and the Partnership together to help
1995, the Partnership took steps to combat this behavior.
According to the Partnership's research (and confirmed by
the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Study),
between the 1995 peak in inhalant abuse and 2001, teen
perceptions of risk in inhalant abuse increased
significantly (from 64 percent in 1995 to 79 percent in
2001). Correspondingly, teen inhalant abuse declined
significantly (from 23 percent lifetime trial in 1995 to 18
percent in 2001).
"Some call what we're seeing 'generational forgetting,'"
Pasierb says. "Today's middle school kids weren't exposed to
the public-education campaigns and community efforts of the
1990's. This is a new generation of kids that needs our
The current effort includes both a mass media campaign,
including new television and radio public service
announcements, and ACE's ongoing outreach across the U.S. to
school counselors and nurses with educational materials
about inhalant abuse.
The new television public service announcement entitled
"Silence" can be viewed online at
www.drugfree.org/inhalants and at
www.inhalant.org/download.html. The campaign also
includes the involvement of ACE's Parent Resource Network,
featuring families who are speaking out after losing a child
to inhalant abuse.
One such parent is Kim Manlove who, along with his wife,
Marissa, lost their 16-year-old son, David, to inhalant
abuse in 2001. "Since David's death, our family has come to
understand that while kids are using inhalants for the
drug-like effects they produce, they are, in fact, not drugs
but poisons that were never intended to be introduced into
the body," said Manlove. "Like other toxins, when abused,
they can cause permanent damage and, as our family knows all
too well, even death."
"Our hope is that by sharing our story and David's struggles
with substance and inhalant abuse, we can help other
families open their eyes to the possibility that their kids
might be engaging in very risky behaviors, that inhalant
abuse is very real and very dangerous," Manlove explains.
ACE's web sites for more information on inhalant abuse
and tips for parents.
by Roper Public Affairs and Media for the Partnership.
Survey of adolescents in grades 7 through 12. Total sample:
7,216 teenagers nationwide. Margin of error: +/- 1.5
 National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
 Conducted by Roper Public Affairs and Media for the
Partnership. Survey of parents with children 18 and younger.
Total sample: 1,200 nationwide. Margin of error: +/-2.8
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