Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC)

March 16-22: National Inhalants and Poison Awareness Week, 2014

For a dozen years now, the third week of March has been named National Inhalants and Poison Awareness Week. Known also as NIPAW, this event highlights the need for inhalant abuse prevention and ways to avoid accidental poisonings. According to the National Alliance for Consumer Education, if an adult speaks with a child about the dangers associated with inhalant use, the risk of that child trying inhalants is cut in half (http://www.inhalant.org/nipaw/). National survey data from 2012 Monitoring the Future survey of 8th to 12th graders show that for the nation as a whole inhalant abuse is the fourth highest type of substance abuse after alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Certain inhalants can cause irreversible brain damage. The number of lives lost and detrimentally affected by inhalants is tragically high. These deaths were preventable. Causes of death from inhalant abuse include sudden sniffing death, suffocation, trauma, choking and asphyxia (National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, http://www.inhalants.org/final_medical.htm).

In its collection of online databases, the IPRC library provides nearly 50 useful resources on the topic of inhalant abuse, including in the HOME library, College Students, AV, and Hispanic/Latino portal databases. For example, you can select Inhalants from the subjects list in HOME library

The following are some examples of resources to be found via the IPRC e-Resources databases:
Inhalant Abuse (http://www.drugs.indiana.edu/repository/RRinhalants.pdf), a report summarizing facts about the dangers and signs of inhalant use,  and providing statistics on use.

Another example is the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition website (also with pages in Spanish), devoted to this topic (www.inhalants.org ). This web site provides general information about inhalants and encourages readers to become involved in inhalant prevention campaigns and join the coalition.


An example of an online video is “Glue-Sniffing Epidemic Among Kenyan Street Children” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4OyqoiF7Ag). There are an estimated 50,000 children living on the streets in Nairobi, and over 300,000 across the country.  About half of them, including children as young as five are addicted to glue sniffing. There the children say that they sniff glue to stay warm, to stave off hunger pangs, and to "get the courage to eat garbage."

An example of an account of a death in the Midwest from inhalant abuse is the title, “Teenage Girl Dies after Inhaling Helium at a Party” (http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/10826065-418/teenage-girl-dies-after-inhaling-helium-at-party.html)

Prevention efforts here in Indiana have contributed to the good news that among youth both lifetime and monthly prevalence of inhalant abuse has decreased at all grade levels with the exception of monthly use in grade 12. For grades 6-12, rates of lifetime use have seen a continual downward trend since the mid 1990’s. And for grades 6-10 monthly use has seen a downward trend since 1995-1997 until now. (Gassman R., Jun, M. C., Samuel, S., Agley, J. D., Lee, J., Crane, M. K., Boyken, J., Oi, S. E., Pardue, S. E., Smith, J. N., Stigger, C. K. (2013). Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Use by Indiana Children and Adolescents. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Prevention Resource Center, p. 17.)

Indiana’s rates as of last spring were markedly lower than national figures. For 8th graders lifetime use for Indiana was 2.9% compared to 11.6% for the U.S.; and last month use was 1.1% compared to 2.7% for the nation. For Indiana 10th graders lifetime use was less than half the national rate of 9.9%, and past month use at 1.1% compared to 1.4% for the nation. For 12th graders lifetime use was 5.1% compared to 7.9% for the nation; and past month use was 1.1% compared to 0.9% for the nation. Lest we let up in our diligence to continue prevention efforts to reduce inhalant abuse, remember that using an inhalant just once can result in death, and any number is too high. Let’s keep up the good work, Indiana, and continue to protect our residents and reduce damage from inhalant abuse.

By Barbara Seitz de Martinez and Naomi Pardue, 3/16/2014