11 May Government Report Shows Decline in Inhalant Use
Adolescents that have heard a barrage of anti-drug and alcohol information may find other ways to get high that allow them to pretend they aren’t abusing substances. Legal household products can produce a buzz that may seem harmless, but can potentially be a killer. Glue, spray paint or gasoline fumes can become toxic and even lethal when inhaled.
A newly released report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information about trends related to inhalant use. Through the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) SAMHSA is able to gather information about past-year and past-month inhalant use from respondents ages 12 and older.
For the purposes of the survey, inhalants are defined as liquids, sprays or gase s that are used to feel good or to get high through inhalation. The participants were asked about the number of days they had used inhalants in the past year. The report provides information about use among respondents ages 12 to 17 between 2002 and 2012, with particular focus on differences between 2011 and 2012.
In 2012 nearly 650,000 adolescents reported using inhalants during the previous year. While use has declined since 2006, the 2012 rate was lower than any year in the past decade. In 2011, 3.3 percent had used inhalants, but in 2012 the rate had fallen to 2.6 percent.
Certain demographic groups experienced differing rates of inhalant use among adolescents. For instance, males decreased their use of inhalants between 2012 and 2011, and 1.3 percent of Asians and 4.8 percent of Native Americans admitted using inhalants. Among white adolescents the rate of use for 2012 was lower compared to the 2011 rate, with 2.5 versus 3.0 percent.
Inhalants are easily accessible in the home, so they are often the first substance that young people experiment with. According to the report, use peaks in mid-adolescence, with the rate of use among 14-year-olds at 3.4 percent being almost double that of 12-year-olds at 1.8 percent. Between 2011 and 2012, there was a decline in use among 13-year-olds, but the change was not statistically significant.
The Northeastern U.S. declined from 3.5 to 2.1 percent between 2011 and 2012. The only areas that remained relatively unchanged were in the West and the Midwest.
Of the adolescents surveyed, 58.6 percent reported that they had used inhalants in the past year and had used them between one and 11 days; 23.3 percent had used between 12 and 49 days; 8.9 percent had used between 50 and 99 days; 9.7 percent had used inhalants for at least 100 days.
While the number of adolescents using inhalants continues to decline, the number of days that inhalant users have used the drug has remained steady from 2011 to 2012.
The declining number of teens that are using inhalants is good news, but the report indicates that on any given day 40,000 teens are using these substances. One central aspect of the problem is that inhalants are legal, easy to buy, cheap and easy to hide. They are also highly addictive and potentially deadly.
The declines in inhalant use suggest that to further drive down the numbers there may be need for additional prevention and education strategies. Inhalants can be deadly on any given use, so prevention efforts are very necessary.
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