More Adults Treated for Inhalant Abuse Than Kids

A new analysis of federal data shows that most people who are treated for abusing inhalants are adults, not adolescents, The Wall Street Journal reported March 17.

“Huffing,” or inhaling chemical vapor to get high, can cause irreversible damage to the brain, kidneys and lungs, and has long been a problem among adolescents. More 12- and 13-year olds use inhalants than marijuana, according to a March 17 press release from SAMHSA. Last year, data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicated that approximately 1.1 million adults over age 18 had used inhalants in the past year — more than the number of adults who used crack cocaine, LSD, heroin, or PCP. 

Now, a new analysis of treatment admissions in 2008 has found that adults also make up the majority of clients being treated for inhalant abuse. Analysts found that 54 percent of the 3,273 people treated for inhalants in 2008 were 18 or older.  Slightly over half (52 percent) of the adults admitted to treatment were between the ages of 18 and 29; about a third (32 percent) were between 30 and 44; and about 1 in 6 (16 percent) were 45 or older.  The vast majority (72 percent) were non-Hispanic whites, followed by Hispanics (11 percent), American Indians (9 percent), and non-Hispanic Blacks (6 percent).

“Inhalant abuse is an equal opportunity killer that does not discriminate on the basis of age, background or gender,” said H. Westley Clark, who directs SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). “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.”

The analysis, “Adults Represent Majority of Inhalant Treatment Admissions,” appeared in the March 17, 2011 issue of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality Data Spotlight (PDF).

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