Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Prevalent is Inhalant Abuse in Ulster County?

In 2009, over 2.1 million kids, ages 12 - 17 used an inhalant to get high[1]. The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 8.1% of 8th graders, 5.7% of 10th graders, and 3.6% of 12th graders had abused inhalants at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.

In Ulster County, 12.9% of 8th graders reported using an inhalant to get high at least once, and 6.1% reported using within the last 30 days[2]. 9.3% of 10th graders and 5.8% of 12th graders reported using an inhalant at least once.

Inhalants pose a particularly significant problem since they are readily accessible, legal, and inexpensive. They also tend to be abused by younger teens[3] and can be highly toxic and even lethal.

Most inhalants produce a rapid high that resembles alcohol intoxication. If sufficient amounts are inhaled, nearly all solvents and gases produce a loss of sensation, and even unconsciousness. Irreversible effects can be hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system or brain damage, or bone marrow damage. Sniffing high concentrations of inhalants may result in death from heart failure or suffocation (inhalants displace oxygen in the lungs). Even a single session of repeated inhalations can lead to cardiac arrest and death by altering normal heart rhythms or by preventing enough oxygen from entering the lungs. Some abusers experience restlessness, nausea, sweating, anxiety, and other symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking the drug[4]. Like any other drug when abused, inhalants can also lead to accidents and injuries.

Inhalants include a variety of products that produce breathable chemical vapors that can have mind-altering effects. The substances inhaled are often common household products that contain volatile solvents, aerosols, or gases. Many of these products are commonly found in the home. People do not think that products such as spray paints, nail polish remover, hair spray, glues, and cleaning fluids present any risk of abuse, because their intoxicating effects are so totally unconnected to their intended uses. Yet, young children and adolescents do seek them out for that purpose. Intoxication occurs quickly and usually lasts only a few minutes, making abuse of inhalants easier to conceal than abuse of alcohol or marijuana.

Parents may be unaware of the risks of inhalant abuse. Even those who are watchful for signs of alcohol or drug abuse may not realize the risk associated with products found under the kitchen sink and in the garage. Adults don't have to clear out cabinets, utility closets, and garage shelves to keep young people safe from inhalant abuse. Rather, they should store household products carefully to prevent accidental inhalation by very young children; they should also remain aware of the temptations that these dangerous substances pose to children in their homes, learn the facts, and communicate with children in a way that guides them toward healthy life choices.

[1] National Survey on Drug Use and Health

[2] 2010 Ulster County Youth Development Survey

[3] NIDA Community Alert Bulletin on Inhalants published in January, 2005

[4] NIDA Notes, Volume 20, Number 3 (October 2005) Inhalant Abuse: Danger Under the Kitchen Sink

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