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Inhalant Abuse Down but Still Snaring Young Kids

Children as Young as 6 Inhale Household Products to Get High

Tracking Inhalant Abuse: A Closer Look continued...

That could reflect the study's look not just at users but at the severity of the inhalant's effect, she says. "Boys may pursue riskier use behavior," she says. Gasoline was the No. 1 product inhaled by boys; for girls it was propellants, such as duster sprays for computer cleaning.

"People use what they are comfortable with, what's around in their environments," Litovitz says.

''Fatality rates were higher than we expected them to be," she says. Although 167 deaths from 35,000-plus reports may not sound high, Litovitz says the fatality rate for young people turns out to be higher than for drugs many parents tend to worry about.

The overall fatality rate for inhalants used in the study was 5.5 per 1,000 cases, she says. In comparison, the fatality rate per 1,000 cases for teenagers reported in other research is 2.2 for cocaine and 3.7 for methamphetamines, Litovitz says.

For the deadliest inhalants, the fatality rate is much higher, she says. For instance, the death rate for butane inhalation was 58 of every 1,000.

Inhalant Abuse: Other Views

Kevin Conway, PhD, deputy director of the division of epidemiology services and prevention research for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, calls the 35,000-plus reports analyzed by Litovitz "a lot of calls."

"Given how dangerous these chemicals are to inhale, it really speaks to the scope of the problem," he tells WebMD.

The new data, he says, will add valuable information to the data collected by the ongoing national surveys. "I think this paper speaks to the importance of parents being more aware of the problem."

Parents should also take note of the young age at which some start inhalant abuse, he says. ''Inhalants are used by kids who are younger than those who [typically] use drugs," he says.

"Parents and the public need to be more aware that inhalants are readily available," he says."They're in the garage; they are in the bathroom."

The finding of more boys than girls inhaling products is a surprise, says Harvey Weiss, founder and director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition in Chattanooga. Other research has found differences at different ages, with girls sometimes more likely to abuse inhalants and other times boys more likely.

In his talks to parents, he says, "One of the messages I try to get across is, 'Your daughter may be more likely to do this than your son,'" he says.

Still, he says, the new study is valuable and will hopefully make parents more aware. He suggests parents keep an eye on products such as computer dusters. If cans begin to be used up quickly, he says, "that can act as an early warning," he says. So can a sudden change in behavior, Litovitz says.

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