National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week (NIPAW) is March 20-26

March 20

Inhalant use is typically not a concern for most parents, as use of alcohol and marijuana are much more predominant. However, in Illinois, 4.2 percent of 8th graders have used Inhalants in the past 30 days, whereas in Will County, 6.0 percent of 8th graders report using Inhalants in the past 30 days (Illinois Youth Survey, 2002). Inhalants are a very real cause for concern, and parents should talk to their children about the dangers of inhalants at an early age.

Developmentally, pre-adolescents and adolescents are risk takers. There are plenty of ways for teens and pre-teens to take risks in healthy ways; sports, academic achievement, and hobbies. However, there are also lots of dangerous activities our kids can find themselves involved in if we as parents aren’t careful to monitor their free time and their friends.

One of those dangerous activities is use of inhalants, or “huffing”. “Huffing” is the abuse of household products in order to get a “high”. It is also one of those unusual illicit activities that more males than females engage in and peaks in 8th grade, declining in later years. Recent statistics state that one in five students in America has used an inhalant to get high by the time he or she reaches the eighth grade.

Common products used as inhalants include: Adhesives model airplane glue, rubber cement, household glue Aerosols (spray paint, hairspray, air freshener, deodorant, fabric protector), Solvents and gases (nail polish remover, paint thinner, type correction fluid and thinner, toxic markers, pure toluene, cigar lighter fluid, gasoline, carburetor cleaner, octane booster), Cleaning agents (dry cleaning fluid, spot remover, degreaser) Food products (vegetable cooking spray, dessert topping spray (whipped cream), whippets), Gases (nitrous oxide, butane, propane, helium), Anesthetic (nitrous oxide, ether, chloroform), Amyl (“Poppers,” “Snappers” Butyl “Rush,” “Locker room,” “Bolt,” “Climax,” also marketed in head shops as “video head cleaner”). Some other important facts to know include:

  • Inhalants are often first substance used before marijuana and cocaine. In fact, inhalant use often appears before onset of tobacco or alcohol use
  • Experimental use takes place in late childhood & early adolescence, use patterns are short lived, with cessation in late adolescence
  • Chronic use appears in early & late adolescence
  • Users can get high several times over a short period because inhalants are short acting with a rapid onset and inhalants are attractive to children who don’t like delayed gratification
  • Young people involved with inhalant abuse are likely to participate in other illegal activities like theft and burglary and can be more disruptive, deviant or delinquent than other drug users
  • Inhalant abusers are predominately white with minority involvement concentrated in American and Canadian Native American Indians, and low income Hispanics
  • There is a common link between inhalant use and problems in school — failing grades, chronic absences and general apathy. Other signs include the following:
    • Paint or stains on body or clothing
    • Spots or sores around the mouth
    • Red or runny eyes or nose
    • Chemical breath odor
    • Drunk, dazed or dizzy appearance
    • Nausea, loss of appetite
    • Anxiety, excitability, irritability
  • The user can also suffer from Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome. The user can die the 1st, 10th or 100th time he or she uses an inhalant

For more information on inhalant abuse, what to look for or what to do to help your child, visit and