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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
November/December 2008, Volume 16, Number 6 

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Youth Inhalant Use Linked to Depression

Adolescents who experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year are three times as likely as those with no past-year MDE to initiate use of inhalants, according to a recent report from SAMHSA.

The data are based on SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2004 to 2006, and are presented in the short report, Inhalant Use and Major Depressive Episode among Youths Aged 12 to 17: 2004 to 2006.

Among youth who used inhalants in the past year, those with past-year MDE were more likely than those without past-year MDE to use inhalants on 100 days or more per year (12.3 vs. 7.9 percent).

Regardless of whether youth age 12 to 17 experienced MDE in the past year, the majority of youth who used inhalants did so on 1 to 11 days in that timeframe.

Other Findings

In 2004 to 2006, 1.1 million youth age 12 to 17 (4.5 percent) used inhalants in the past year, and 2.1 million (8.5 percent) had experienced MDE in the past year.

The rate of past-year inhalant use was more than twice as high among youth age 12 to 17 who had MDE in the past year than among those who did not (10.2 versus 4.0 percent); an estimated 218,000 youth had used inhalants and experienced MDE in the past year.

Of those who used inhalants and also experienced MDE in their lifetime, 43.1 percent had their first episode of MDE before using an inhalant, 28.3 percent used inhalants before they had their first episode of MDE, and 28.5 percent began using inhalants and had their first episode of MDE at about the same time.

Youth age 12 to 13 had the highest past-year inhalant usage after experiencing MDE, as compared with youth in the same age group who had used inhalants but had not experienced MDE (13.9 versus 3.7 percent).

What are Inhalants?

NSDUH defines inhalants as liquids, sprays, and gases that people sniff or inhale to get high or to make them feel good, but their use can cause damage to major organ systems and cognitive processes.

A major depressive episode is defined as a period of 2 weeks or longer during which there is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure and at least four other symptoms that reflect a change in functioning, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and self-image.

The data suggest that clinicians and parents monitoring adolescents for depression should be alert to the potential of substance abuse, including inhalants. Similarly, adolescents using or abusing inhalants might benefit from screening for co-occurring mental health issues such as depression.

To read the full report, visit SAMHSA’s Office of Applied Studies Web site at For more information on youth inhalant use, see SAMHSA News online, March/April 2008.

  Women, Addiction, & Recovery  
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Conference Coverage & Related Stories

  Returning Veterans  
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Women in the Military: Overcoming Challenges

From mental health issues to sexual harassment—what’s being done to help.

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Veterans & Major Depressive Episode: New Data

Last year, more than 300,000 veterans experienced MDEs.

  Suicide Prevention  
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New Media Increase Options

Virtual suicide prevention efforts are helping.

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Lifeline Answers One Millionth Call

Milestone for SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

  Training Manuals  
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This Treatment Improvement Protocol training manual offers basics on successful detox.

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Medication-Assisted Treatment

This Treatment Improvement Protocol training manual discusses treatment for opioid addiction.

  Data on Youth  
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Inhalant Use & Depression

Some adolescents are three times as likely to start using inhalants—find out why.

Mental Health Settings: New Data

Do young people get mental health services at school more often than at specialty treatment centers?

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Out-of-Home Treatment

Effective treatment options for young people.

  Also in This Issue  
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2008 Science & Service Award Winners

For best practices, 29 organizations honored.

Grant Updates

Awards announced.

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Advisory Councils

Five new members for SAMHSA’s Advisory Councils.

Treatment Line Gets National Attention

Oprah promotes SAMHSA’s substance abuse treatment line as a resource.

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Voice Award Nominations

You have until March 2009 to cast your vote.

Primary Care Settings

Mental health may improve with treatment location.

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