Inhalant Abusers Are Older Than You Think

Inhalant Abusers Are Older Than You Think

My mom is doing what??

While traditional thinking has led us to believe that adolescents are the ones most likely to try inhalants, a new report has shown that a significant number of inhalant abusers are actually adults. The term inhalants, refers to the vapors from toxic substances which are inhaled in order to reach a quick high. People who abuse inhalants inhale the chemical vapors directly from open containers, also called “sniffing,” or breathe the fumes from rags soaked in chemicals, also called “huffing,” and “bagging,” where the user may inhale fumes from substances inside a paper or plastic bag. Some even go so far as to spray the substance directly into the nose or mouth, or pour it onto their collar, sleeves or cuffs and sniff them periodically. Inhalants can produce mind-altering effects; while chronic use can also cause irreversible damage to the brain, kidneys and lungs as well as death.

There are more than 1,000 products that can be abused by inhalants and can be found simply laying around the house. You know that glue you bought to help your daughter with her arts and crafts? It is one of the products most often abused as an inhalant. These are products that are easily purchased at drugstores and other stores alike throughout your neighborhood. As we have been under the belief that adolescents were the ones most likely to abuse inhalants, it has become commonplace for store employees to refuse to sell certain items that can be used as inhalants to those under 18. However, most don’t think twice when selling the same product to an adult, under the impression that they are all responsible enough not to abuse it.

Yet, as stated above, a new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, has shown that 54 percent of treatment admissions related to inhalants abuse in 2008 involved adults ages 18 or older. For example, Erin Davis, a 42-year-old mother of a 16-year old daughter explained, “I am an adult, not a teenager, and know firsthand how these inhalants can destroy your life.” She explained that she inhaled computer duster for two years, starting when she was 38 years old and went on to say that, “the people that I used with were all over the age of 34.”

The findings from SAMHSA’s study highlight the magnitude of the inhalant problem among adults, finding that an estimated 1.1 million adults over the age of 18 have used inhalants in the past year. Now that’s a pretty big number. As H. Westley Clark, MD, JD, MPH, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment said, “Inhalant abuse is an equal opportunity killer that does not discriminate on the basis of age, background, or gender. Although we have been understandably focused for many years on the danger huffing poses to our kids, these new data highlight the need for everyone to be aware of and effectively address the serious risks it poses to adults and all segments of our society.”


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