March 11, 2009
Guy Cousins, Director
Office of Substance
207-287-6342 or
John A. Martins, Director
Public and Employee Communications (207) 287-5012


Educating Parents about Dangers the Goal of

 National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week

AUGUSTA - Parents need to know the warning signs of inhalant abuse and how deadly inhalants can be to their children. This is the key message of National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week, March 15-21. The Maine Office of Substance Abuse, an office of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Inhalant Prevention Work Group, are focusing on educational efforts to help parents understand the dangers of inhalants- common household products that are found in homes, garages and offices.

"Inhalant abuse is called the 'silent epidemic' for a reason.  When parents, teachers, and other adults learn about what inhalant abuse looks like, many say 'I saw something like this, but I didn't understand what was going on.'  Education is the key to understanding who might be doing it, why they might be doing it and what products may be used.  Hopefully, through educating adults, parents and teachers about what inhalant abuse looks like, we can raise the level of awareness." said Rebecca L. Miller, RN, BSN, CSPI, Maine Poison Outreach Education Coordinator, Northern New England Poison Center.

According to the 2008 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey (MYDAUS), almost 11 percent of Maine 's 6th-12th grade students reported that they have abused inhalants in their lifetime.  "The entry age for children to experiment with inhalants is low - 8 percent of 6th graders report use in their life," said Guy Cousins, Director of the Office of Substance Abuse.   "This is alarming because even first use can cause permanent brain damage or death."

While illegal drugs and alcohol are more difficult for young people to obtain, 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 and are safely used for their intended purpose by millions every day.  A free web-based training to help parents learn how to prevent abuse is available at:

Parents who think their children may have used or be using inhalants should be watchful for changes in their attitudes and interests.  These changes may include a decline in school performance, a disoriented/dazed appearance, slurred speech and chemical odors on clothes, breath or backpack.  More information and signs can be found on the online training.  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.  One of the attractions of inhalants is that adults don't often ask about them.