Adults now 'huffing' more than kids
March 17th, 2011
11:40 AM ET

Adults now 'huffing' more than kids

It’s called huffing – inhaling chemical vapors to get high. It's usually associated with teenage drug abuse, but a new report suggests that's not really the case.  The majority of Americans abusing inhalants are not children but adults, according to a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

More than 1 million adults were “huffing” last year, according to SAMHSA’s newly released “Data Spotlight Study,”  based on data from treatment facilities across the country.

That’s more than those who used crack or LSD, Heroin or PCP.   In fact, the study found 54% of all people who sought treatment in 2008 were adults over age 18.

“Inhalant abuse is an equal opportunity killer that does not discriminate on the basis of age, background or gender,” said Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “Although we have been understandably focused for many years on the dangers of huffing poses to our kids, these new data highlight the need for everyone to be aware of and effectively address the serious risks it poses to adults and all segments of our society.”

Long-term inhaling and sniffing can lead to irreversible damage to the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys and eyes.  According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition , a wide range of common household products are abused: glue, spray paint, markers, hairspray, air freshener, nail polish remover, deodorant, computer keyboard cleaner, paint thinner, spot removers, even cooking sprays and whipped cream sprays.  Sudden sniffing death, the coalition says, can occur even the first time.

In the past, the NIPC has focused on prevention in children.  This new report suggests that's no longer enough.

“The frequency of emails and calls on our toll-free hotline from people needing help for spouses, older siblings and friends, parents and even grandparents,” said Harvey Weiss, executive director of NIPC, “has led us to understand that people of all ages are at risk and may need help with this problem.”

Nearly three-quarters of the admissions were males.  Seventy-two percent were white, and thirty-eight percent did not graduate high school.

But Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, warns that parents still need to be diligent about children and inhalants. “Our homes are increasingly becoming the source of dangerous drugs of abuse for young people,” Kerlikowske said. “Whether these products are inhalants found under our sinks and in our utility room, or dangerous prescription drugs stored in our medicine cabinets, parents need to act today to protect our young people by securing these products and discussing the harms that they cause.”

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