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Health & Parenting

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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...

Other products on the poison centers' report list:

  • Paint thinners
  • Lighter fluid
  • Helium
  • Carburetor cleaner
  • Adhesives and glues
  • Disinfectants
  • Inks or markers
  • Polishes and waxes
  • Aerosol deodorants

The new study differs in a number of ways from ongoing national surveys that track substance use trends, Litovitz says. It doesn't depend on self-reporting, and the cases from the poison centers are categorized by severity, from "no effect resulting from the inhalant exposure" to "death."

Although national surveys have found inhalant abuse equally among girls and boys, the new study found otherwise. "In our data, almost three-quarters of the cases involved boys," Litovitz tells WebMD.

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.

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