“Huffing” Isn’t Just Kid’s Stuff: More Adults Are Now Abusing Inhalants

Illicit drugs offer a high to adults and youth that comes with a dangerous price. Drugs like marijuana and cocaine cost people physically, mentally, and monetarily. When teens can’t monetarily afford drugs to give them a high, or are worried about using illicit drugs, sometimes they turn to getting their high from inhalants. These kids found that sniffing chemicals that are found in common products like household cleaners was an easy way to get their high. But one new study shows that it’s no longer just kids who are getting their high by “huffing.” A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) revealed that more than half of the people who were admitted for treatment of inhalant abuse were 18 years and older. In the past year, 1.1 million adults used inhalants. In SAMHSA’s study, 52 percent of those admitted for inhalant abuse was aged 18 to 29, 32 percent were aged 30 to 44, and 16 percent were 45 and older. Inhaling chemicals may seem like the easy way to get a high for some, but inhaling those vapors over time can cause permanent brain and lung damage. Unfortunately, some people believe that because these chemicals are found in common products and can be legally purchased, they can’t really cause that much harm. But doctors stress that that is not true. Inhalant abuse can develop into an addiction that can possibly be fatal. Doctors are seeing a growing number of adults turning to inhalants in an attempt to get a high. Some are using inhalants for the first time and others are using them after their recovery from another drug addiction. Dr. Donna LaPaglia, the director of the Substance Abuse Treatment Unit, Connecticut Mental Health Center at Yale, says that they are seeing a new trend of inhalant abusers. Women who are primarily recovering from cocaine addiction are using inhalants as a substitute to get their high. Dr. LaPaglia coordinates a treatment program for 400 registered male and female clients. She reported a specific change in her female clients who were in their mid-thirties. In an attempt to break free from a drug addiction, these women sought out other substances to replace their cravings. Some women inhaled vapors from cleaning products, while others used computer dust remover. These findings shed some new light on drug addiction and reveal some surprising comparisons to the use of inhalants and illicit drugs. The new statistics show that adults’ use level of inhalants surpassed their use levels for Crack, LSD, Heroin, and PCP. With this new awareness, doctors can plan more effectively for the needs of their clients. Research and training centers like Dr. LaPaglia’s don’t focus heavily in addictions like inhalant abuse. But, LaPaglia admits that these findings can’t be ignored and that the use of inhalants should be addressed in training, assessment, and intervention.

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