Suggested Action Plan for Inhalant Abuse Prevention
The Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force encourages schools to take the following steps to prevent inhalant abuse in schools and during school-sponsored activities. For technical assistance, please contact the Massachusetts Inhalant Abuse Task Force ( Kathleen Herr-Zaya at 617-624-5143 or Kathleen.Herr-Zaya@state.ma.us ).
1. Environmental Safety
- Screen currently used office, classroom, art, and shop supplies for safety. Strong smelling supplies may contain solvents. An "AP Non-Toxic" label on art supplies from the Art and Creative Material Institute does not indicate an absence of solvents, since the Institute does not evaluate products for their potential to be abused as inhalants. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer or the Regional Center for Poison Control and Prevention Serving Massachusetts & Rhode Island at 1-800-222-1222.
- Review purchases of school supplies. Substitute water-based products for solvent-based products when possible. For example, use low odor dry erase markers and water-based correction fluid, glue (white glues or glue sticks) and paints.
- Where water-based products cannot be used, the use of solvent-based products and gases should be closely monitored. Products should be checked out and checked in, noting the frequency and amount used. Teachers should be aware that rags, handkerchiefs, small bottles, soda cans, and sleeves may be used for the delivery of solvents.
- Ban nonessential solvent-based products (such as solvent-based correction fluid and dry erase and magic markers) in schools. Explain that the school is looking for ways to reduce indoor air pollution and poisons in the schools. Avoid labeling products as inhalants or drugs, which may only arouse the curiosity of students and encourage use.
- Review school alcohol and other drug policies to be sure that they address the use of inhalants. In Massachusetts, the use, possession, distribution, purchase or sale of a product for use as an inhalant is illegal (MGL 270-18) and school policy should reflect that.
3. Education for parents, staff, and community
- Provide information to faculty, staff, and school nurses through inservice training and/or printed material. Invite community-based youth-serving professionals.
- Educate parents about the dangers of inhalant abuse. Many parents find it difficult to go to evening programs, so consider letting parents know of "A Parent's Guide: Preventing Inhalant Abuse Among Children and Teens" that they can download or order for free at the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse
4. Curriculum Review
- Many schools are already teaching health lessons that could incorporate inhalant abuse prevention messages. These topics include poisons, product safety, first aid, and fire safety. Review and revise lessons to add or strengthen inhalant abuse prevention messages. Prevention messages should promote awareness that these products may contain poisons, toxins, pollutants, and/or highly flammable liquids and gases. Procedures for appropriate and safe use of these products should be emphasized. Using this approach associates these products with product safety concerns and poisons instead of drugs.
- Because solvents and gases are commonly used in shops, vocational programs, and science and art classes, safety lessons associated with the use of these products should be reviewed to stress the correct use and the consequences of misuse.
- Is there a procedure in place for a student who is suspected or known to have used inhalants (or any other drug)? Because of the potential for sudden death associated with inhalant use, it is recommended that the school nurse be involved and/or that the student be transported by ambulance to a hospital emergency room to be evaluated.
- Is there a procedure in place for alcohol and other drug abuse screenings and/or assessments? Resources are available to assist when schools are concerned that a student may have used an inhalant, but is not in immediate danger. The Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline can connect you to the closest community outpatient substance abuse counseling program. Youth who are members of managed care programs (such as HMOs and PPOs) can be seen through their system, as appropriate.
This information is provided by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health.