Inhalants: In the news

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 4:39 pm

While ecstasy and OxyContin make headlines as the latest dangerous drugs, news coverage of inhalants is much more subdued. When surveyed, 40% of parents were unaware that sniffing inhalants is extremely dangerous, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Yet in 2000, 16.7 million youths reported having used inhalants at some point, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Household Survey on Drug Abuse. That contrasts with the 6.4 million ecstasy users and 400,000 OxyContin users the survey identified.
Inhalant use has been called a silent epidemic, the breath of death, and the drug problem most resistant to prevention efforts. Huffing and sniffing are potentially deadly for both new and experienced users, yet the issue has escaped the attention of many parents, teachers, physicians, and law enforcement officers. National surveys variously show that only 3% to 10% of parents believe their children have abused inhalants. Others see it as a harmless passing phase.
How does an overlooked health risk break into the news? The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, with the support of the Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, publicizes the subject each March, during National Inhalants and Poison Awareness Week. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics commissioned an inhalant abuse survey, which received a great deal of national news coverage.

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