March 7, 2007 Office of Substance Abuse


Parents need to know the warning signs of inhalant abuse and to talk with their children about how deadly inhalants can be. That's the message of National Inhalant Poison Awareness Week, March 18-24. The Maine Office of Substance Abuse, along with the Maine Inhalant Prevention Work Group, are focusing on educational efforts to help parents and youth understand the dangers of inhalants - poisonous solvents and gasses found under just about every sink, in most garages and even in offices.

"Adults in my community can talk about the implications of alcohol abuse and can list what to look for to determine if their kids are using marijuana, but when I ask them about inhalant abuse I often get blank stares," said Dalene Dutton, community coordinator for Five Town Communities That Care in Camden . "We have a significant problem with inhalant abuse locally and in the state, but most adults know very little about it. Signs of inhalant abuse may be right in front of them, but parents and others who work with kids are not trained on what to look for. Products that have a high potential for misuse as inhalants are all around our children. With education I hope we can raise awareness and begin to take action on this serious issue."

Inhalants are deadly. A single try can cause brain damage and may kill. Illegal drugs and alcohol are more difficult for young people to get. There are more than 1,400 common items that can be inhaled or "huffed." These are easy to come by at home, work or school - safely used by millions every day.

According to the 2006 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey, 12 % of students grades 6 through 12 have abused inhalants in their lifetime. "The use of inhalants by the very young has serious long and short term consequences," says Kim Johnson, director of OSA. "Parents who suspect their children are using inhalants should be alert for changes in their attitudes and interests." Other changes may include a decline in school performance, a disoriented/dazed appearance, slurred speech, and chemical odors on a child's clothes, breath or backpack.

Some other warning signs include red spots or sores around the nose and/or mouth, complaints of headaches, empty lighters and spray cans, and household containers, rags or plastic bags with chemical odors. If you are concerned about changes in your child's behavior, ask about inhalants. Be specific about why you are worried and stress that inhalants are poisons. Remember, one of the attractions of inhalants is that adults don't often ask about them.

Tips and the latest information about inhalants can be found at OSA's Information and Resource Center , 1-800-499-0027, or on-line at . Additional information sources are the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition at and the Northern New England Poison Center at or 1-800-222-1222.

# # #