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Research Report Series - Inhalant Abuse
|Students who have ever used inhalants
versus other commonly abused drugs, percent
Inhalants - particularly volatile solvents, gases, and aerosols - are often among the first drugs that young children use. One national survey indicates that about 3.0 percent of U.S. children have tried inhalants by the time they reach fourth grade. Inhalant abuse can become chronic and extend into adulthood.
Generally, inhalant abusers will abuse any available substance. However, effects produced by individual inhalants vary, and some individuals will go out of their way to obtain their favorite inhalant. For example, in certain parts of the country, "Texas shoe-shine," a shoe-shining spray containing the chemical toluene, is a local favorite. Silver and gold spray paints, which contain more toluene than other spray colors, also are popular inhalants.
Data from national and State surveys suggest inhalant abuse reaches its peak at some point during the seventh through ninth grades. In the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, an annual NIDA-supported survey of the Nation's secondary school students, 8th-graders also regularly report the highest rate of current, past year, and lifetime inhalant abuse; 10th- and 12th-graders report less abuse.
|Percent of 8th-Graders Reporting Lifetime Use of Inhalants Increased|
Gender differences in inhalant abuse have been identified at different points in childhood. The 2004 MTF indicates that 10.5 percent of 8th grade females reported using inhalants in the past year, compared with 8.8 percent of 8th grade males. Among 12th- graders, 3.4 percent of females and 4.8 percent of males reported using inhalants in the past year. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an annual survey of drug use among the Nation's noninstitutionalized civilians, reports that similar percentages of 12- to 17-year-old boys and girls abused inhalants in 2003. However, the percentage of 18- to 25-year-old males who abused inhalants within the past month was more than twice that of females in that age group, suggesting that sustained abuse of inhalants is more common among males.
People who abuse inhalants are found in both urban and rural settings. Research on factors contributing to inhalant abuse suggests that adverse socioeconomic conditions, a history of childhood abuse, poor grades, and dropping out of school all are associated with inhalant abuse.
|How can inhalant abuse be recognized?|
Inhalant abuse was up significantly for the second year in a row among 8th-graders, according to the latest MTF data, while use among 10th- and 12th-graders continued to decline.
According to the 2003 NSDUH, lifetime, past year, and past month inhalant use among persons aged 12 to 17 were 10.7 percent, 4.5 percent, and 1.3 percent, respectively. The number of new inhalant users increased from 627,000 new users in 1994 to 1 million in 2002. Inhalant initiates were predominantly under age 18 (78 percent in 2002).
MTF's lifetime prevalence figures indicate that the percentages of students who have tried inhalants continue to decrease steadily for 10th- and 12th-graders. In 2004, 12.4 percent of 10th-graders and 11.9 percent of 12th-graders said they have abused inhalants at least once in their lives. Although lifetime prevalence peaked for 8th-graders in 1995 (21.6 percent), rates of inhalant use among this group are still high. In fact, 8th-graders reported a significant increase in lifetime use from 15.8 percent in 2003 to 17.3 percent in 2004. For 10th-graders, the peak was 19.3 percent in 1996. For seniors, rates were highest in 1994 at 17.7 percent. These data raise a question: How can fewer 12th-graders than 8th-graders consistently report they have ever abused inhalants? Possibly, many 12th-graders fail to recall their much earlier use of inhalants or, more troubling, many 8th-grade inhalant abusers may have dropped out of school by the 12th grade and are no longer included in the survey population.
Letter from the Director
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