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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
March/April 2009, Volume 17, Number 2 

Photo of a teen pulling an aerosol can out of a cupboard with a skull and crossbones graphic screen over it

Inhalants = Poison: That’s the Message

Teens like to experiment. It’s just a part of growing up. But experimenting with inhalants can lead to permanent health problems or death—even after one session of “huffing.”

At a recent press conference to mark the 17th annual National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week, SAMHSA joined with other Federal agencies and the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) to raise awareness about the dangers of inhalants. Two people affected by inhalant abuse also shared their personal stories (see box).

NSDUH report cover: Trends in Adolescent Inhalant Use: 2002 to 2007 click to view


New data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that in 2007, 17.2 percent of adolescents age 12 to 17 who started using illicit drugs in the past year indicated that inhalants were the first drug that they used.

The report, Trends in Adolescent Inhalant Use: 2002 to 2007, also shows that the percentage of teens who used inhalants in the past year was lower in 2007 (3.9 percent) than in 2003, 2004, and 2005 (4.5, 4.6, and 4.5 percent, respectively).

Still, in 2007, almost 1 million teens used inhalants in the past year, with 0.4 percent of teens (about 99,000) meeting the criteria for inhalant dependence or abuse.

Poison Is Poison

What’s the best way to educate children on the dangers of inhalant abuse? NIPC materials emphasize that when discussing inhalants with teens it is important to call inhalants “poison,” not drugs. Teachers and parents should focus on positive health messages, such as keeping the body supplied with oxygen and free from toxins.

Household products. Parents also need to educate themselves about the household products that kids use to get high. For instance, while SAMHSA data show that use of nitrous oxide or “whippits” was lower among past-year inhalant initiates in 2007 than in 2002 (16.3 versus 31.6 percent), use of aerosol spray other than spray paints was higher in 2007 than in 2002 (25.0 versus 12.6 percent).

Serious consequences. According to NIPC, some of the effects of inhalant abuse include loss of consciousness and sudden sniffing death syndrome, which can occur after the 1st, 10th, or 100th time an inhalant is used. Other effects include damage to the heart, kidney, brain, liver, bone marrow, and other organs. Read more on inhalant abuse in SAMHSA News online, March/April 2008.

Read Trends in Adolescent Inhalant Use: 2002 to 2007.

Awareness Day Includes Personal Stories

At the press conference for National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week, Allison Fogarty talked about her addiction to inhalants.

“What started as an escape from a bad day turned out to become a daily habit, which I was unable to stop by using just willpower,” she said. Ms. Fogarty has been in recovery from inhalant abuse since May 2008.

Although she did not suffer physical withdrawal, she said that resisting inhalants is still a daily struggle that she hopes will get easier with time.

Transforming Grief into Commitment

“I am here on behalf of my 19-year-old daughter Erica Rain and all those who have lost family members from a dangerous toxic chemical—refrigerant,” said Dana Prothro to press conference attendees. “Erica made a mistake, a mistake that took her life within minutes.”

After losing her daughter, Ms. Prothro joined United Parents to Restrict Open Access to Refrigerant (UPROAR). The group works to raise awareness and alter building codes so that young people cannot access and sniff refrigerants from air conditioners. That’s what Erica did.

Find more information on UPROAR. To learn more about inhalant abuse, visit NIPC.

  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Treatment as an Alternative to Jail

Treatment as an Alternative to Jail & Related Articles


Funding Opportunities

Requests for applications include a variety of new grants including Project Launch.

Awards for Suicide Prevention

Awards for Suicide Prevention

Symbolic “big checks” were presented to six organizations.

  Underage Drinking  
Underage Drinking: Related Articles

Underage Drinking: Related Articles

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Find out what you can do to help prevent and reduce drinking by teens and college students.

  Building Awareness  
Inhalants Often “First”

Inhalants Often “First”

News of recent deaths from sniffing refrigerants.

Are Prevention Messages Working?

Are Prevention Messages Working?

We’ve heard the commercials urging parents to talk. Are teens getting the message?

American Indians, Alaska Natives

American Indians, Alaska Natives

“Culture Card” offers information on tribal sovereignty, myths & facts, and more.

  Mental Health  

Economy: Help in Tough Times

You can’t see stress, but you certainly can feel it. A new SAMHSA Web site offers resources, referrals, and more.

States, IT, and Mental Health Services

States, IT, and Mental Health Services

A recent report gives a state-by-state update on information technology’s effect.

Lifeline on Twitter

Lifeline on Twitter

“Tweets” from the Nat’l Suicide Prevention Lifeline help awareness.

  Treatment Roundup  

Admissions, Facilities, & More

Recent data from two SAMHSA surveys – National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services (N-SSATS) and Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) – provide updated information.

DVD Kit on Homelessness

DVD Kit on Homelessness

Programs in Seattle and Philadelphia are two success stories highlighted in this DVD.

Recovery Month

Recovery Month

Send your press releases, studies, and news on recovery for posting on the site.

  Staff in the News  
Kana Enomoto Honored

Kana Enomoto Honored

Deputy Administrator receives the inaugural King Davis Award for Emerging Leadership.

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