Long-Term Prevalence and Demographic Trends in U.S. Adolescent Inhalant Use: Implications for Clinicians and Prevention Scientists

Subst Use Misuse. 2016;51(3):343-56. doi: 10.3109/10826084.2015.1110169. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


Background: Inhalant use by adolescents is cause for concern due to the early age of inhalant use initiation and the many short- and long-term health consequences that can occur concurrently with and subsequent to use. However, inhalant use research has been limited relative to the literature available on other drug use.

Objectives: The present research examined long-term trends in inhalant use prevalence, demographic risk factors of inhalant use, and median grade level of first use.

Methods: Monitoring the Future data from 1991 to 2011, which includes information drawn from United States eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders, were examined. The total sample comprised more than one million participants. Results were examined descriptively with figures and quantitatively with mixed-effects regression models of the effect of time on use rates.

Results: Inhalant use prevalence rates generally declined over the selected period. Though rates of use by males and females decreased significantly, the proportion of females among lifetime users increased significantly. Whites, Hispanics, and members of uncategorized "other" ethnicities showed the highest prevalence rates. Although the proportion of Whites among lifetime users decreased significantly, the proportion of Hispanics and "other" ethnicities increased significantly. The median first use was between sixth and ninth grade.

Conclusions/importance: Results suggest a need to tailor inhalant use treatment and prevention programs to the needs of specific demographic groups and to target interventions early to prevent youth inhalant use. Strengths, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Inhalants; adolescents; epidemiology; health disparities; mixed-effects regression; monitoring the future.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior* / psychology
  • Age Factors
  • Demography / trends*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhalant Abuse / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology