- NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - About 20% of American children will try inhalants
before the eighth grade, estimates the lead author of two recently published
studies on inhalant abuse among children.
- Inhaling the fumes of common household
products has become an increasingly popular way for young people to experience
a brief high.
- Common household products " such
as air freshener, spray paint, typewriter correction fluid and colored
markers " can be inhaled. Most inhalants create a brief dizzying rush.
Side effects include hallucinations, convulsions, violent behavior, and
loss of consciousness.
- But the habit, known as "huffing'',
"sniffing'', or ''wanging'', can also lead to permanent brain, liver
and kidney damage, or to sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
- "No one really knows why the trend
is increasing, but the use rates have almost doubled in the last 20 years,''
Dr. Matthew Owen Howard, an assistant professor of social work at Washington
University in St. Louis, Missouri, said in an interview with Reuters Health.
- His two studies, published recently in
the journals Addiction, and Addictive Behaviors, provide a profile of someone
who is more apt to abuse inhalants.
- "Both studies found that inhalant
abusers had more early aggressive and delinquent conduct and greater tendencies
to have thought about and perhaps tried to commit suicide,'' Howard said
in a press release. "Inhalant abusers also tended to be more involved
in substance-related criminal activity and gang membership.''
- One study, published in the journal Addiction,
looked at 224 Native Americans in fifth and sixth grade living in urban
Seattle. Participants completed questionnaires on substance use, ethnic
self-identity, involvement in traditional Indian activities, family conflict,
family history of alcoholism, peer and sibling deviance, self-esteem, delinquency,
aggression, anxiety, depression, sensation-seeking conduct disorder, and
- The study found that 12.3% of adolescents
reported using inhalants sometime in their lives. Inhalant use was associated
with lower perceived self-worth, aggression and delinquent conduct, lower
household incomes, and a family history of alcoholism.
- "As with other studies of inhalant
abuse, aggressive and delinquent males of low socioeconomic status, and
low-perceived self-worth with family histories of alcohol dependence, were
at highest risk for inhalant use,'' conclude Howard and colleagues.
- The second study included 475 young people
on probation in Utah who met with an interviewer and filled out a questionnaire
to determine family support and cohesiveness, parental interest and involvement
in school activities, school performance, suicide attempts, gang activity,
substance abuse, and criminal activity.
- Slightly more than 34% of these children
reported that they had used inhalants.
- According to Howard and colleague Jeffery
M. Jenson with the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa, inhalant
abuse correlated with "greater antisocial attitudes, personal and
familial dysfunction, and substance abuse than do their non-inhalant using
- The use of inhalants to produce a brief
high is not new, but recent reports suggest that the use of inhalants among
children is increasing, particularly among 10 to 12 year olds. Howard blames
this trend on the ease with which children can obtain inhalants compared
with alcohol or drugs.
- SOURCE: Addiction 1999;94:83-95; Addictive