Abuse of Inhalants Rising Among Girls, Study Shows

By Christina A. Samuels — April 03, 2007 1 min read

Too many people think of young boys when they imagine teenagers abusing inhalants, according to drug-abuse-prevention experts.

A report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that girls ages 12 to 17 are increasingly more likely to sniff or “huff” dangerous substances such as nail-polish remover or glue.

The agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services examined inhalant use between 2002 and 2005. The rates of use stayed about the same over that time, with 4.5 percent of the 12- to 17-year-olds surveyed saying they had used inhalants within the past year.

While use among boys appeared to drop slightly, however, from 4.6 percent in 2002 to 4.2 percent in 2005, use among girls increased from 4.1 percent in 2002 to 4.9 percent in 2005.

Harvey Weiss, the executive director of the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition in Chattanooga, Tenn., said in an interview that had noticed in other reports that girls appeared to be abusing inhalants as much as boys, “but it just seemed not to be getting the attention that it ought to.”

The study, released March 15, also indicates that girls appear to be abusing substances different from those abused by boys. It found that 34.9 percent of girls who abused inhalants used glue, shoe polish, or toluene, a solvent found in nail-polish remover, compared with 25.8 percent of boys.

The study found boys were more likely than girls to have used nitrous oxide, or “whippets,” to get high; 29 percent of boys reported using that method, compared with 19 percent of girls.

See Also

For more stories on this topic see Safety and Health.

For background, previous stories, and Web links, read Student Health.

A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2007 edition of Education Week