Nearly 22% of Children Abuse Inhalants by 8th Grade


Are your children abusing inhalants? According to The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 22 percent of children in sixth and eighth grades admit that they abuse inhalants, but only 3 percent of parents think their children have ever done so. A new public service announcement (PSA) campaign by the Alliance for Consumer Education hopes to raise awareness of inhalant abuse among children and its deadly potential.

Bagging, glading, sniffing: these are terms used among those who abuse inhalants. Inhaled chemicals are rapidly absorbed through the lungs into the bloodstream, where they quickly reach the brain and other organs. Within minutes of inhaling a substance, the user experiencs intoxication, similar to the feelings one gets when drinking alcohol. One difference with inhalants, however, is that the high lasts only a few minutes, so users frequently will repeatedly inhale to maintain the effect.

The PSAs feature the story of Allison Fogarty, a teenager who, with the help of her family, was able to overcome her addiction to inhalants. Allison’s story was told on an episode of the A&E Television Series “Intervention,” and her story is one of the most controversial and watched in the program’s history. Fortunately in Allison’s case, her mother and sister got involved, but for most children, their families are not aware of the abuse. According to Partnership for a Drug-Free America studies, children are four times more likely to use an inhalant than their parents think.

The good news is that parents can make a difference. Colleen Creighton, Executive Director of Alliance for Consumer Education, notes that national studies show that when parents talk to their children about inhalant use, those children are half as likely to ever try using them.


Parents who talk to their children about inhalants may be saving their lives. Many parents are not aware that a child can die after abusing an inhalant just one time. Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome is caused in one of two ways. First, an inhalant causes the heart to beat rapidly and erratically until the user goes into cardiac arrest. Second, the fumes from the inhalant reach the user’s lungs and central nervous system. As the oxygen levels decline, the user cannot breathe and suffocates.

Inhalant abusers who do not die experience significant side effects. Short-term effects include headache, muscle weakness, severe mood swings, violent behavior, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, nausea, hearing loss, slurred speech, and abdominal pain. Regular abuse of inhalants can result in serious harm to the organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys, and result in damage to the brain and central nervous system and possibly death.

The Alliance for Consumer Education website lists some of the more than 1,400 common household products that children use to abuse and get high. Among them are nail polish remover, paint thinner, paint remover, toxic magic markers, correction fluid, hairspray, spot remover, cooking spray, gasoline, and lighters. Because the inhalants are such common items, it is impossible to keep children away from them. That’s one reason why parents need to have discussions with their children about inhalants and the consequences of their use.

Along with the symptoms associated with inhalant abuse, parents should look for a red or runny eyes or nose, spots or sores around the mouth, or unusual breath odor or a chemical odor on clothing. Children who abuse inhalants may also have paint or stain marks on their fingers or clothing, sit with a marker or pen by their nose, paint their fingernails with magic markers or correction fluid, hide butane lighters and refills in their room or backpack, or hide empty containers of potentially abused products in closets, under the bed, and so on.

The Alliance for Consumer Education hopes that its PSA campaign, along with the information on its website, will make more parents aware that a significant percentage of children are using inhalants as early as the sixth and eighth grades. The seriously dangerous and potentially deadly practice can be greatly reduced if parents become more involved in their children’s lives and have the necessary discussions about inhalant use with them, before it is too late.

Alliance for Consumer Education
Partnership for a Drug-Free America