Inhalant abuse is the intentional inhalation of a volatile substance for the purpose of achieving a euphoric state. It is also known as solvent abuse, volatile substance abuse, glue sniffing, sniffing, and huffing. Beginning with children as young as 6 years of age, it is an underrecognized form of substance abuse with a significant morbidity and mortality. This statement reviews important aspects of inhalant abuse and makes several recommendations involving prevention and education strategies to address this problem.
As with other types of substance abuse, precise epidemiologic data on inhalant abuse are not available. The peak age of inhalant abuse is 14 to 15 years, with onset occurring in those as young as 6 to 8 years. Use declines typically by 17 to 19 years of age; however, some users may continue into adulthood.
Since 1975, the National Institute on Drug Abuse annual survey of high school seniors (Monitoring the Future) has documented a lifetime incidence of inhalant abuse of 15% to 20%, with 5% to 10% of seniors using inhalants during the previous year. This survey underestimates the true prevalence, because school dropouts, who have a relatively higher incidence of substance abuse, are not included. Although there has been a general decline in the use of most other mind-altering substances, the relative incidence of inhalant abuse has increased. Since 1988, eighth graders also have been surveyed, disclosing that inhalant abuse has increased recently and has surpassed marijuana use within this group. Nationwide mortality data are not collected; however, the United Kingdom (with a population approximately one fifth of that of the United States and the only major country in the western world that tracks deaths caused by inhalants) has documented two deaths pen week.
- Copyright © 1996 by the American Academy of Pediatrics