Understanding Adolescent Inhalant Use

In: The CBHSQ Report. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2013–.


Background: Inhalants are legal, everyday products—including spray paints, felt-tip markers, glue, and gasoline—that are harmless when used as intended; when the vapors from these products are intentionally inhaled to get high, they become potentially toxic and sometimes lethal. Method: This report uses data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to provide up-to-date information on inhalant use among adolescents aged 12 to 17, including demographic and geographic characteristics of inhalant users. Results: In 2015, about 684,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used inhalants in the past year. Adolescents were more likely than adults aged 18 or older to have used inhalants in the past year to get high (2.7 vs. 0.4 percent). The types of inhalants adolescents used to get high varied. Felt-tip pens/markers, or magic markers were the most commonly identified types of inhalants adolescents used to get high in 2015. Female adolescents were more likely than male adolescents to have used inhalants in the past month (3.2 vs. 2.3 percent). In 2015, more than half of adolescents who used inhalants in the past year (59.0 percent) reported that they had used 1 to 11 days in the past year; about 1 in 54 (19.3 percent) had used 12 to 49 days. Conclusion: The results in this report underscore that adolescents of all race/ethnicities, across the country, and in rural and metropolitan settings are vulnerable to inhalant use. Therefore, continuing efforts are needed to educate adolescents, parents, teachers, physicians, service providers, and policymakers about the dangers and health risks of inhalant use.

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