More Pre-Teens Abusing Inhalants

While overall teen drug use is declining, new data analysis show fewer pre-teens see risk in Inhalants and more are willing to experiment

NEW YORK – Abuse of inhalants by middle school children has increased by as much as 44 percent over a two-year period, driven by fewer and fewer children seeing risk in experimenting with inhalants to get high, according to a new data analysis conducted and released today by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

“It’s clear that this new generation of pre-teens has a lot to learn about the lethal nature of inhalant abuse,” said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of the Partnership. “We’ve got two concerns to contend with: 1) the fact that more kids are using inhalants to get high, and 2) fewer kids seeing risk in this behavior, which suggests more kids will experiment in the future.”

Drawn from the Partnership’s latest national survey on drug use, the new analysis reports that over the past two years inhalant abuse increased by 18 percent (from 22 to 26 percent) among 8th graders and by 44 percent (from 18 to 26 percent) among 6th graders.

Commonly known among adolescents as “sniffing,” “inhaling” or “huffing,” inhalant abuse is the deliberate inhalation of fumes from common products found in homes, offices and schools to get high. Approximately one in four 8th graders – or almost one million youngsters – has reported trying an inhalant at least once in their lives. Inhalant abuse can cause brain damage and can lead to death, even at the trial stage.

The percentage of kids associating risk with using inhalants also dropped significantly over the past two years. The perception that sniffing of huffing inhalants can kill you fell 14 percent among 8th graders (from 73 to 63 percent) and decreased 29 percent among 6th graders (from 68 to 48 percent).

New Inhalant Education Initiative

The Partnership is re-launching its inhalant education campaign as part of a nationwide effort across all major media markets with a renewed focus on preventing inhalant abuse.

The Partnership and the Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE) are discussing ways to help educate parents about the dangers of inhalant abuse by building awareness through prevention efforts.

“Working closely with The Partnership as an alliance partner, we will be able to reach millions of parents and educators to help stem the tide of increased inhalant abuse among preteens,” said Carleen Kreider, president of the Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE). “We have dedicated our efforts at ACE to educate as many parents and other adults nationwide about this risky behavior. We hope to help empower parents to talk to their children about the dangers of inhalants because we know that the threat of inaction can be even more dangerous.”

Overall, teen drug use is trending downward in the United States. Lifetime use of any illegal drug is down by 10 percent over the last five years (from 51 percent in 1998 to 46 percent in 2003). Over the past five years, Marijuana trial or lifetime use has declined from 42 to 39 percent, a seven percent reduction. And teen trial or lifetime of Ecstasy , which peaked in 2001, has declined by 25 percent (from 12 to 9 percent). The one exception to this positive trend is the up-tick in inhalant abuse among pre-teens.

“The Partnership’s findings are quite alarming and confirm what we are seeing at the state and local levels,” said Harvey Weiss, executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) in Austin, Texas. “We must talk about the very real threats of inhalants with our children; to do nothing about this now invites needless tragedies.”

The 2003 PATS study, conducted for the Partnership by Roper Public Affairs & Media, under grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, interviewed 7,270 adolescents nationwide. An additional teen sample of 1140 adolescents in the 6th grade was also included. Data are nationally projectable with a +/- 1.5 percent margin of error.

ACE is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to advancing community health and well being. The flagship program of ACE is Inhalant Abuse Education and Prevention.

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) was founded in 1992 and views inhalant abuse as a public health problem. It provides all segments of a community with resources, materials and referrals and leads National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week. The NIPC has established a grief support network for parents who have lost their child to inhalants.

For parents and those who care for children, resources, tips and the latest information about drugs and inhalant abuse are available at the Partnership’s parent resource center on-line at or ACE at or NIPC at