General Guidelines for Inhalant Abuse Prevention Programming

1. Inhalant Abuse Prevention Education should be done as part of a general substance abuse education series, not as an isolated focus or to the exclusion of other types of drug education. It should contain the following components of successful substance abuse prevention programs:
  • Include accurate, fact-based information about the short-term as well as long-term health effects of inhalants and other substances. Avoid "scare tactic" approaches.
  • Create norms that make inhalant use unacceptable and unpopular. Research indicates that youth tend to overestimate the rates of use among their peers. Most youth are not experimenting with these dangerous substances.
  • Foster positive, supportive, sustained connections between youth and role models (other young people as well as adults).
  • Utilize activities that provide youth opportunities to practice newly-learned skills (such as decision-making skills or refusal strategies) and to pass their knowledge on to others.
  • Develop linkages to other resources (such as school, family, community or other youth-serving agencies) as necessary.

2. Education concerning inhalants must be carefully designed to avoid creating a "how to" primer for experimenters. It should avoid discussing in detail administration and paraphernalia of inhalants and should instead reinforce personal responsibility, optimal health and well-being. Discussions should emphasize that these products are designed for a specific purpose and they can be dangerous when used in unintended ways. Mark Groves, Program Director of the Eden Youth Inhalant Abuse Training and Information Project, says:

"You don't tell kids how to do it, you tell kids what it may do to them. These products are poisons, and kids who 'sniff' or 'huff' are polluting their bodies. The media has conditioned kids to understand that pollution is bad. We should take advantage of that when teaching kids about inhalants."

3. Include parents and teachers in your inhalant abuse prevention education outreach. Parents can impact youth of all ages by demonstrating proper usage of chemicals and by discussing safety issues related to inhalable substances. Even at the youngest ages, children can learn by imitation. Our recommendation is that educational materials that contain the types of products that can be abused or how they are used be mailed to parents directly. Teachers of art, technology, and science can have an important role in inhalant abuse prevention by including lessons on safety issues relating to inhalable substances.

In summary, norm-setting prevention education, skill-based strategies and activities, and positive role-modeling are the most effective tools we have for preventing inhalant abuse.


This information is provided by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health.