April 14, 2003: What are the signs and patterns of inhalant abuse?

The estimated risk of starting to use inhalant drugs has increased 3-fold during the past decade.

The patterns of volatile substance abuse (VSA) are different than those patterns associated with abuse of other drugs.  VSA starts at an early age (elementary and middle schoolers) and peaks at ages 13-14.  Use of other psychoactive chemicals peaks at ages 18-20.  Both males and females abuse.  The highest prevalence of abuse occurs among non-Hispanic whites.  Hispanic youths have the second highest prevalence of inhalant abuse. Abuse is consistently high among American Indian youth.


The following are signs of inhalant abuse

-Unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing

-slurred or disoriented speech

-signs of paint on face or fingers

-red or runny eyes or nose

-"glue sniffer's rash"-peri-oral eczema from contact with adhesive poured into a plastic bag

-nausea and loss of appetite

-symptoms of anxiety, excitability, irritability, or restlessness



National Inhalant Prevention Coalition 1-800-269-4237 or on the web at http://www.inhalants.org.


Next week:

What are the chronic effects of toluene inhalation?


I am interested in any questions that you would like answered in “Question of the Week.”  Please e-mail me with any suggestions at donna.seger@Vanderbilt.edu


Donna Seger, M.D.

                  Medical Director, Middle Tennessee Poison Center