Pubdate: Sat, 26 Mar 2005
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Advertiser Co.
Author: Crystal Bonvillian
Note: Letters from the newspaper's circulation area receive publishing
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


It could be the hairspray you use to fix your hair, or the cooking
spray in your kitchen cabinet. It could be the glue your son is using
to put together a model car, or the correction fluid he uses on his

The list of chemicals teenagers are using as inhalants is endless and,
according to state and federal officials, the number of teens using
common household items as recreational drugs is increasing.

"Inhalant abuse is on the rise," said Rebecca Smith, community
outreach coordinator for the Council on Substance Abuse in Montgomery.
The council, an affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and
Drug Dependence, has for the past couple of years been monitoring the
number of area teens who use inhalants.

In a 2004 survey, 3 percent of Montgomery County teenagers admitted to
using inhalants on a monthly basis. Nearly 5 percent said they had
used them at some point in their lifetime.

"That's a pretty significant number," Smith said. "It could be higher,
but it's high enough that this issue needs to be addressed."

The National Institute on Drug Abuse's annual survey has shown an
increase in inhalant use across the country, even while the number of
teenagers using illegal drugs has declined.

The use of inhalants among eighth-graders has gone up nationally from
7.7 percent in 2002 to 9.6 percent in 2004, the survey shows. Trend
analysis from a similar time period, 2001 to 2004, shows a 17 percent
drop in illegal drug use among high school students.

The problem is that inhalants are very easy for teenagers to get, and
use of the chemicals is nearly impossible for law enforcement to
control because the items are legal.

Lt. Huey Thornton, a Montgomery Police spokesman, said the city has
had no cases in recent memory involving inhalant use.

Though legal, these substances can cause serious and sometimes
irreparable harm, the NIDA says. Just one session of repeated
inhalation can cause fluctuation in heart rates that could lead to
cardiac arrest, or oxygen deprivation serious enough to cause

Inhalants can cause liver and kidney damage and depletion of a
person's blood oxygen levels. Permanent injury related to inhalants
includes hearing loss, limb spasms, central nervous system problems
and brain damage.

Smith said the Council on Substance Abuse is trying to get the word
out to parents and teens through community forums and education
programs about the dangers associated with inhalant use.

"There are things for parents to notice if their kids are using,"
Smith said.

If a teenager has unexplained burns or holes in his clothing, it could
be from spilling chemicals, Smith said. Children sniffing paint or
other substances might have residue on their hands or clothing.

"Also, they might exhibit different behavior," Smith said. "A
different group of friends, a drop in grades. If they're sleepy a lot.
There are lots of signs."

According to the NIDA Web site, other symptoms include a chemical odor
on the breath, a drunk or disoriented appearance, irritability and

Parents needing more information, or help for their children, can
contact the Council on Substance Abuse at (334) 262-4526. Help is also
available from organizations such as the Partnership for a Drug-Free
America, or
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin