Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Parenting

Font Size

Inhalant Abuse Down but Still Snaring Young Kids

Children as Young as 6 Inhale Household Products to Get High
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 19, 2010 -- Inhalant abuse of common household products such as gasoline, paint, or air freshener is on the decline but still a deadly problem for children and teens, according to a new study.

When inhaled, the products can be more deadly than cocaine, researchers say. The problem peaks at age 14, but children as young as 6 are inhaling, says study co-author Toby Litovitz, MD, executive and medical director of the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C.

''Inhalants are dangerous," Litovitz says. “Abuse happens in young children, and it happens with products readily available in your household."

For the study, her team tracked inhalant abuse cases reported to 60 U.S. poison centers from 1993 to 2008. They found a 33% decline over those years, but still gathered data on more than 35,000 cases of inhalant abuse -- including 167 deaths -- reported during the study period. Most cases involved children and teens.

Of note, there is one product category -- propellants -- in which the rate of abuse has increased from 2004-2008. Computer dusters and fluorocarbons are included in this group.

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Inhalant Abuse: The Problem

About 10% to 15% of U.S. teens are thought to have an inhalant abuse problem, Litovitz says. The products are inhaled in a number of ways: a rag soaked with the chemical is held up to the face ("huffing"), the chemical is sniffed directly from the container or a plastic bag ("sniffing"), or the substances are put in a paper bag and the vapors inhaled ("bagging").

The appeal to users? "They get a high, but the high is subtle," Litovitz says. "There is a slight stimulation effect, and a disassociation effect."

When the researchers looked at the 35,000-plus inhalant abuse cases handled by the poison control centers, they were surprised at how young some of the users were. "We saw cases down to 6-year-olds," Litovitz says.

Tracking Inhalant Abuse: A Closer Look

In all, 3,400 different inhalant abuse products were reported, with propellants, gasoline, and paint the most often involved.

Most deadly, however, were butane, propane, and air fresheners.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Girl holding up card with BMI written
Is your child at a healthy weight?
toddler climbing
What happens in your child’s second year.
father and son with laundry basket
Get your kids to help around the house.
boy frowning at brocolli
Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
mother and daughter talking
child brushing his teeth
Sipping hot tea
Young woman holding lip at dentists office
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
rl with friends
tissue box
Child with adhd