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Inhalant use is rising among teenage girls.

WASHINGTON -- Inhalant use remained stable for boys aged 12-17 years between 2002 and 2005, but use of inhalants by girls in that age range increased during that period, from 4.1% to 4.9%, a national survey shows.

The survey, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), also showed that the type of inhalants used varied by gender. Boys aged 12-17 years were more likely to inhale nitrous oxide, sometimes sold in vials called whippets, to get high, but girls in that age range were more likely to use other forms of inhalants, including glue, shoe polish, spray paint, and aerosol hair sprays.

Even as the overall number of recent inhalant initiates (those "huffing" for the first time) remained relatively stable between 2002 and 2005--rising slightly from 591,000 youths to 605,000--most of the initiates were girls. In 2002, about 306,000 teen boys initiated inhalant use. That number fell to 268,000 in 2005. Among adolescent girls, however, the number rose from 285,000 to 337,000 new users.

Overall, combined data from 2002 to 2005 indicate that approximately 1.1 million adolescents aged 12-17 years had used inhalants in the past year to get high, or 4.5% of the population in that age range.

In a press briefing on inhalant abuse, neither Dr. H. Westley Clark, director of SAMSHA's center for substance abuse treatment, nor Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, could offer an explanation of why more teen girls are experimenting with this potentially fatal high. Mr. Weiss pointed out that other surveys show that girls start using inhalants before their male counterparts do--and the age difference is over a year.

The survey discussed at the meeting, called the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, is based on data collected between 2002 and 2005 from 91,145 persons aged 12-17 years, including 46,431 teen boys.

Dr. Timothy P. Condon, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, also at the meeting, added that results from the 2006 Monitoring the Future survey show a decline in perceived risk among teenagers about the dangers of inhalant abuse. That perception could account for rising use among girls.

Several clinical signs and symptoms point to an addiction to inhalants, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition ( Among those signs are short-term memory loss, cognitive impairment, slurred and "scanning" speech, and tremor.


Assistant Editor
Toluene Is Inhalant Preferred by Girls

 % of Recent Inhalant Initiates
 Girls Boys
 (aged 12-17 years) (aged 12-17 years)

Glue, shoe polish, or toluene 34.9% 25.8%
Spray paints 26.1% 20.8%
Correction fluid, degreaser, or 23.4% 13.6%
 cleaning fluid
Other aerosol sprays* 23.0% 16.4%
Nitrous oxide or whippets 19.3% 29.0%

*Includes air fresheners, hair spray, and furniture polish.
Source: 2002-2005 data, National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Child/Adolescent Psychiatry
Author:Napoli, Denise
Publication:Clinical Psychiatry News
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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