Adolescent inhalant use prevention, assessment, and treatment: A literature synthesis

Int J Drug Policy. 2016 May;31:15-24. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.02.001. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Inhalant use refers to the use of substances such as gases, glues, and aerosols in order to achieve intoxication, while inhalant use disorder (IUD) encompasses both DSM-IV-TR criteria for inhalant abuse and dependence. Inhalant use among adolescents is an international public health concern considering the severe medical and cognitive consequences and biopsychosocial correlates. In this paper, we summarize the current state of the literature on inhalant use among adolescents focusing on social context, prevention, assessment, and treatment strategies. Psychoeducation, skills training, and environmental supply reduction are helpful strategies for preventing adolescent inhalant use, while parent and adolescent self-report as well as physician report of medical signs and symptoms can aid in assessment and diagnosis. Although research has only begun to explore the treatment of inhalant use, preliminary findings suggest that a multimodal approach involving individual counselling (i.e., CBT brief intervention), family therapy, and activity and engagement programs is the first-line treatment, with residential treatment programs indicated for more severe presentations. The limited nature of treatments developed specifically for inhalant use combined with high prevalence rates and potential for significant impairment within the adolescent population indicate the need for further research. Research should focus on understanding the social context of use, establishing the efficacy of current adolescent substance use treatments adapted for inhalant use, and exploring long-term outcomes.

Keywords: Adolescent; Inhalant use; Prevention; Substance use disorder; Treatment; Volatile substance use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Factors
  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Drug Users / psychology*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Inhalant Abuse / diagnosis
  • Inhalant Abuse / epidemiology
  • Inhalant Abuse / psychology
  • Inhalant Abuse / therapy*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • Treatment Outcome