SAMHSA Issues Report on Understanding Adolescent Inhalant Use


A recent Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report found that:

  • In 2015, about 684,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used inhalants in the past year.
  • Adolescents were more likely than adults aged 18 or older to have used inhalants in the past year to get high (2.7 vs. 0.4 percent).
  • Female adolescents were more likely than male adolescents to have used inhalants in the past month (3.2 vs. 2.3 percent).
  • In 2015, more than half of adolescents who used inhalants in the past year (59.0 percent) had used 1 to 11 days in the past year; about 1 in 5 (19.3 percent) had used 12 to 49 days.

The report notes that the types of inhalants adolescents used to get high varied. Felt-tip pens/markers, or magic markers were the most commonly identified types of inhalants adolescents used to get high in 2015.

Inhalants are highly accessible, cheap, and easy to hide; they are also addictive and deadly. Inhalants are particularly appealing to adolescents for many reasons; they are legal, low cost, and easy to acquire.7 In addition, inhalants can give users a fast but short-term high, which makes it easy for adolescents to use inhalants and conceal their use.1,7 Using inhalants is also associated with many negative outcomes. Adolescents who engage in inhalant use are at an increased risk of delinquency, depression, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol use.7 Inhalants also have the special risk of being deadly any time they are used—even the first time.

Although this report highlights that the majority (97.3 percent) of adolescents aged 12 to 17 have not used inhalants in the past year to get high, there were the 684,000 adolescents who did use inhalants in the past year to get high.

The results in the report underscore that adolescents of all race/ethnicities, across the country, and in rural and metropolitan settings are vulnerable to inhalant use. Therefore, continuing efforts are needed to educate adolescents, parents, teachers, physicians, service providers, and policymakers about the dangers and health risks of inhalant use.

To read the full report, please click here.

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