WASHINGTON (CN) – More 12-year-olds have huffed deadly chemicals such as paint solvents and refrigerants to get high than have used marijuana, hallucinogens and cocaine combined, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says.
The popularity of “huffing” – sniffing chemicals such shoe polish, air fresheners, computer duster, glue and nail polish – has remained stable among preteens, while illicit drug use has dropped significantly, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey.
Nearly 7 percent of 12-year-olds have used inhalants as recreational drugs, compared to 1.4 percent who tried marijuana, 0.7 percent who took hallucinogens and 0.1 percent who used cocaine, according to the 2008 survey of 67,000 children.
The rates of use among boys and girls were roughly the same.
Most parents are not aware that huffing can cause “sudden sniffing death” due to cardiac arrest, or that the chemicals can be addicting, the study revealed.
Ashley Upchurch, 17, talked about her experience with inhalants at a National Inhalant Prevention Coalition press conference. “Inhalants were a cheap, legal, and an intense high that would also enhance the feeling I would get from other drugs,” she said.
The rate of inhalant use hasn’t dropped, despite educational campaigns, programs to make doctors more aware of the danger of inhalants, and a push for manufacturers to make inhalants more difficult to abuse.
The data’s release comes just days before the annual National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week. Results from the 2009 survey are expected to be announced in September.