By LEE BOWMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
March 17, 2007
A new government report released Thursday says more girls than boys used substances ranging from nail polish and hair spray to air fresheners to get high in 2005.
"When we think about a young person huffing, a vision comes to mind of a young boy hiding in his room. Or so I thought," said Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Coalition. "When it comes to huffing at the youngest ages, more girls than boys are misusing common household products to get a fast, inexpensive, temporary high."
The coalition presented the new data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that shows in 2005, more than 600,000 youth started using inhalants, including 337,000 females and 268,000 males.
"Among new inhalant initiates, girls start huffing at a much earlier age than boys. This means that parents, health professionals and educators must start talking with preteen girls about the dangers of inhalants before it is too late," Weiss said.
Among the trends noted by the report is that use of nitrous oxides (propellants for products like whipped cream) among new users has declined since 2002, particularly among males, while use of other aerosol sprays other than spray paint has more than doubled for boys and girls.
"Young people who turn to inhalants may be completely unaware of the serious health risks," said Timothy Condon, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
"We know that inhalant abuse can start early, with even preadolescent children seeking them out because they are so easy to obtain. Our Monitoring the Future study shows that eighth graders have abused inhalants at a higher rate than 10th or 12th graders every year from 1991 through 2006," Condon said.
Health risks from inhalant abuse include brain damage, organ failure, convulsions, deafness, impaired vision, loss of motor skills and judgment, and even first time use can lead to death.
Friends later told Mona Casey of Naples, Fla., that her 15-year-old son, Charles Gray, had only inhaled freon from an old air conditioner with a group of them once before. The second time he did it, the gas claimed his life.
Although Charles had experimented with marijuana before, he had agreed to stop after several long talks with his parents. "We really felt like he was getting himself together," said Mrs. Casey, who was one of several parents of inhalant abuse victims who spoke at a news conference to release the new report. "We were always telling him how proud we were of him."
Mrs. Casey said she and her husband, Larry, had never heard about inhalant abuse or the dangers before Charles died.
"We are urging parents to talk to their children about inhalants and take notice when suddenly their children have bad breath, face rashes or stained clothing," said Dr. Westley Clark, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
The report noted that girls who recently starting abusing inhalants were more likely than boys to use glue and shoe polish, as well as cleaning products like computer air brushes or furniture polish, and hair spray, to get high.
On the Net:
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions